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Gene. 2005 Feb 14;346:23-8. Epub 2004 Dec 31.

Evolutionary changes of the number of olfactory receptor genes in the human and mouse lineages.

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Institute of Molecular Evolutionary Genetics and Department of Biology, Pennsylvania State University, 328 Mueller Laboratory, University Park, PA 16802, USA.


The numbers of functional olfactory receptor (OR) genes are quite variable among mammalian species. Previously we have reported that humans have 388 functional OR genes and 414 pseudogenes, while mice have 1037 functional genes and 354 pseudogenes. These observations suggest either that humans lost many functional OR genes after the human-mouse divergence (HMD) or that mice gained many functional genes. To distinguish between these two hypotheses, we devised a new method of inferring the number of functional OR genes in the most recent common ancestor (MRCA) of humans and mice. An application of this method suggested that the MRCA had approximately 750 functional OR genes and that mice acquired approximately 350 new OR genes after the HMD whereas approximately 430 OR genes in the MRCA have become pseudogenes or eliminated in the human lineage. Therefore, the two evolutionary hypotheses mentioned above are not mutually exclusive and both are nearly equally responsible for the difference in the number of OR genes between humans and mice.

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