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Cell. 2006 Jul 28;126(2):403-13.

Interchromosomal interactions and olfactory receptor choice.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics and Howard Hughes Medical Institute, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, New York, NY 10032, USA.


The expression of a single odorant receptor (OR) gene from a large gene family in individual sensory neurons is an essential feature of the organization and function of the olfactory system. We have used chromosome conformation capture to demonstrate the specific association of an enhancer element, H, on chromosome 14 with multiple OR gene promoters on different chromosomes. DNA and RNA fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) experiments allow us to visualize the colocalization of the H enhancer with the single OR allele that is transcribed in a sensory neuron. In transgenic mice bearing additional H elements, sensory neurons that express OR pseudogenes also express a second functional receptor. These data suggest a model of receptor choice in which a single trans-acting enhancer element may allow the stochastic activation of only one OR allele in an olfactory sensory neuron.

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