Human Leukocyte Antigen similarity decreases partners’ and strangers’ body odor attractiveness for women not using hormonal contraception

Publikation: Beitrag in FachzeitschriftForschungsartikelBeigetragenBegutachtung



The Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) is a gene complex that encodes important elements of the human immune system. HLA profile is communicated via olfaction and interindividual diversity is assumed to be advantageous for mate choice. Additionally, HLA diversity appears to enhance satisfaction and sexual attraction in existing romantic partnerships. However, whether this effect is transmitted via body odors and whether it results in an attraction towards HLA-dissimilar individuals and/or an avoidance of HLA-similar ones remains unclear. In the present study, we genotyped couples and asked each participant to rate a body odor sample from their partner and from three strangers of the opposite sex who expressed a similar or dissimilar HLA-B and HLA-C genotype. We found no statistically significant preference for HLA similarity or dissimilarity in men. Among women, the observed effects differed depending on hormonal contraception status. Like men, women on hormonal contraception did not exhibit significant HLA-related preferences. However, for women not using hormonal contraceptives, odors from HLA-B and HLA-C similar donors were significantly less attractive than those from HLA-dissimilar donors, regardless of whether the samples were from a partner or a stranger. Our findings support the hypothesis that HLA similarity is perceived via body odors and that such similarity affects human attraction. This mechanism may serve an evolutionarily adaptive function in preventing prospective offspring from having decreased immunocompetence, or decreasing the chance of kin mating.


Seiten (von - bis)144-149
FachzeitschriftHormones and behavior
PublikationsstatusVeröffentlicht - Nov. 2018

Externe IDs

PubMed 30339817
ORCID /0000-0002-6555-5854/work/142250241
ORCID /0000-0001-9713-0183/work/146645324



  • Body odor, Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA), Mating, Olfaction, Partner preferences, Smell