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PLoS Biol. 2008 May 27;6(5):e125.

A regulatory code for neuron-specific odor receptor expression.

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  • 1Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, United States of America.

Abstract

Olfactory receptor neurons (ORNs) must select-from a large repertoire-which odor receptors to express. In Drosophila, most ORNs express one of 60 Or genes, and most Or genes are expressed in a single ORN class in a process that produces a stereotyped receptor-to-neuron map. The construction of this map poses a problem of receptor gene regulation that is remarkable in its dimension and about which little is known. By using a phylogenetic approach and the genome sequences of 12 Drosophila species, we systematically identified regulatory elements that are evolutionarily conserved and specific for individual Or genes of the maxillary palp. Genetic analysis of these elements supports a model in which each receptor gene contains a zip code, consisting of elements that act positively to promote expression in a subset of ORN classes, and elements that restrict expression to a single ORN class. We identified a transcription factor, Scalloped, that mediates repression. Some elements are used in other chemosensory organs, and some are conserved upstream of axon-guidance genes. Surprisingly, the odor response spectra and organization of maxillary palp ORNs have been extremely well-conserved for tens of millions of years, even though the amino acid sequences of the receptors are not highly conserved. These results, taken together, define the logic by which individual ORNs in the maxillary palp select which odor receptors to express.

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PMID:
18846726
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC2430909
Free PMC Article
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