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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1996 Jan 23; 93(2): 884–888.

The chromosomal distribution of mouse odorant receptor genes.


Odorant receptors (ORs) on nasal olfactory sensory neurons are encoded by a large multigene family. Each member of the family is expressed in a small percentage of neurons that are confined to one of several spatial zones in the nose but are randomly distributed throughout that zone. This pattern of expression suggests that when the sensory neuron selects which OR gene to express it may be confined to a particular zonal gene set of several hundred OR genes but select from among the members of that set via a stochastic mechanism. Both locus-dependent and locus-independent models of OR gene choice have been proposed. To investigate the feasibility of these models, we determined the chromosomal locations of 21 OR genes expressed in four different spatial zones. We found that OR genes are clustered within multiple loci that are broadly distributed in the genome. These loci lie within paralogous chromosomal regions that appear to have arisen by duplications of large chromosomal domains followed by extensive gene duplication and divergence. Our studies show that OR genes expressed in the same zone map to numerous loci; moreover, a single locus can contain genes expressed in different zones. These findings raise the possibility that OR gene choice may be locus-independent or involve consecutive stochastic choices.

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