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C R Biol. 2006 Sep;329(9):679-90. Epub 2006 Jul 3.

[Olfactory receptors and odour coding].

[Article in French]

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  • 1Biochimie de l'Olfaction et de la Gustation, UMR de Neurobiologie de l'Olfaction et de la Prise Alimentaire, Inra, Jouy-en-Josas, France.


The first step of olfactory detection involves interactions between odorant molecules and neuronal protein receptors. Odour coding results from the combinatory activation of a set of receptors and rests on their clonal expression and olfactory neurone connexion, which lead to formation of a specific sensory map in the cortex. This system, sufficient to discriminate myriads of odorants with a mere 350 different receptors, allows humans to smell molecules that are not natural (new cooking flavours, synthetic chemicals...). The extreme olfactory genome diversity explains the absence of odour semantics. Olfactory receptors are also involved in cellular chemotaxis.

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