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PLoS Genet. 2012;8(7):e1002821. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1002821. Epub 2012 Jul 12.

Functional evolution of mammalian odorant receptors.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina, United States of America.

Abstract

The mammalian odorant receptor (OR) repertoire is an attractive model to study evolution, because ORs have been subjected to rapid evolution between species, presumably caused by changes of the olfactory system to adapt to the environment. However, functional assessment of ORs in related species remains largely untested. Here we investigated the functional properties of primate and rodent ORs to determine how well evolutionary distance predicts functional characteristics. Using human and mouse ORs with previously identified ligands, we cloned 18 OR orthologs from chimpanzee and rhesus macaque and 17 mouse-rat orthologous pairs that are broadly representative of the OR repertoire. We functionally characterized the in vitro responses of ORs to a wide panel of odors and found similar ligand selectivity but dramatic differences in response magnitude. 87% of human-primate orthologs and 94% of mouse-rat orthologs showed differences in receptor potency (EC50) and/or efficacy (dynamic range) to an individual ligand. Notably dN/dS ratio, an indication of selective pressure during evolution, does not predict functional similarities between orthologs. Additionally, we found that orthologs responded to a common ligand 82% of the time, while human OR paralogs of the same subfamily responded to the common ligand only 33% of the time. Our results suggest that, while OR orthologs tend to show conserved ligand selectivity, their potency and/or efficacy dynamically change during evolution, even in closely related species. These functional changes in orthologs provide a platform for examining how the evolution of ORs can meet species-specific demands.

PMID:
22807691
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC3395614
Free PMC Article

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