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Annu Rev Neurosci. 1999;22:487-509.

Molecular biology of odorant receptors in vertebrates.

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  • Rockefeller University, New York, New York 10021, USA. pm@rockvax.rockefeller.edu


The initial step in olfactory discrimination involves the interaction of odorous ligands with specific receptors on the surface of olfactory sensory neurons. The foundation for a molecular understanding of odor recognition in vertebrates was provided by the identification of a family of genes encoding putative odorant receptors, by Buck & Axel in 1991. Odorant receptor (OR) genes from the largest gene family in the vertebrate genome. This review summarizes progress over the past seven years. Major new insights are: Olfaction is accomplished in vertebrates by a very large number of receptors; olfactory sensory neurons express a small subset of the OR repertoire; in rat and mouse, axons of neurons expressing the same OR converge onto defined glomeruli in the olfactory bulb.

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