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J Neurochem. 1997 Aug;69(2):465-75.

Subfamily of olfactory receptors characterized by unique structural features and expression patterns.

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  • 1University Stuttgart-Hohenheim, Institute of Zoophysiology, Germany.


The complex chemospecificity of the olfactory system is probably due to the large family of short-looped, heptahelical receptor proteins expressed in neurons widely distributed throughout one of the several zones within the nasal neuroepithelium. In this study, a subfamily of olfactory receptors has been identified that is characterized by distinct structural features as well as a unique expression pattern. Members of this receptor family are found in mammals, such as rodents and opossum, but not in lower vertebrates. All identified subtypes comprise an extended third extracellular loop that exhibits amphiphilic properties and contains numerous charged amino acids in conserved positions. Olfactory sensory neurons expressing these receptor types are segregated in small clusters on the tip of central turbinates, thus representing a novel pattern of expression for olfactory receptors. In mouse, genes encoding the new subfamily of receptors were found to be harbored within a small contiguous segment of genomic DNA. Based on species specificity as well as the unique structural properties and expression pattern, it is conceivable that the novel receptor subfamily may serve a special function in the olfactory system of mammals.

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