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Chem Senses. 2012 Sep;37(7):585-93. doi: 10.1093/chemse/bjs049. Epub 2012 Jun 19.

Genetic variation in the odorant receptor OR2J3 is associated with the ability to detect the "grassy" smelling odor, cis-3-hexen-1-ol.

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Food Innovation, The New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research Limited, Private Bag 92169, Auckland 1142, New Zealand.


The ability to detect many odors varies among individuals; however, the contribution of genotype to this variation has been assessed for relatively few compounds. We have identified a genetic basis for the ability to detect the flavor compound cis-3-hexen-1-ol. This compound is typically described as "green grassy" or the smell of "cut grass," with variation in the ability to detect it linked to single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in a region on human chromosome 6 containing 25 odorant receptor genes. We have sequenced the coding regions of all 25 receptors across an ethnically mixed population of 52 individuals and identified 147 sequence variants. We tested these for association with cis-3-hexen-1-ol detection thresholds and found 3 strongly associated SNPs, including one found in a functional odorant receptor (rs28757581 in OR2J3). In vitro assays of 13 odorant receptors from the region identified 3 receptors that could respond to cis-3-hexen-1-ol, including OR2J3. This gene contained 5 predicted haplotypes across the 52 individuals. We tested all 5 haplotypes in vitro and several amino acid substitutions on their own, such as rs28757581 (T113A). Two amino acid substitutions, T113A and R226Q, impaired the ability of OR2J3 to respond to cis-3-hexen-1-ol, and together these two substitutions effectively abolished the response to the compound. The haplotype of OR2J3 containing both T113A and R226Q explains 26.4% of the variation in cis-3-hexen-1-ol detection in our study cohort. Further research is required to examine whether OR2J3 haplotypes explain variation in perceived flavor experience and the consumption of foods containing cis-3-hexen-1-ol.

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