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PLoS One. 2013;8(2):e54950. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0054950. Epub 2013 Feb 5.

Human trace amine-associated receptor TAAR5 can be activated by trimethylamine.

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Department of Cell Physiology, Ruhr-University Bochum, Bochum, Germany.


In addition to the canonical olfactory receptors, TAARs were currently suggested to be a second class of chemosensory receptors in the olfactory epithelium of vertebrates. In contrast to several deorphanized murine TAARs, agonists for the intact human TAAR genes 2, 5, 6, 8 and 9 that are potentially expressed in the human olfactory epithelium have not been determined so far. Moreover, the physiological relevance of TAARs still remains elusive. We present the first successful functional expression of a human TAAR and agonists of human TAAR5. We performed a ligand screening using recombinantly expressed human TAAR5 in HANA3A cells and Xenopus laevis oocytes. In order to measure receptor activity, we used a cAMP-dependent reporter gene assay and two-electrode voltage clamp technique. As a result, human TAAR5 can be activated in a concentration-dependent manner by trimethylamine and with less efficacy by dimethylethylamine. It could neither be activated by any other of the tested single amines with a related chemical structure (42 in total), nor by any of the tested odorant mixtures. The hypothesis that Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNP) within the reading frame of an olfactory receptor gene can cause a specific anosmia, formed the basis for clarifying the question, if anosmia for trimethylamine is caused by a SNP in a TAAR coding sequence. All functional human TAAR gene reading frames of subjects with specific anosmia for trimethylamine were amplified and products analyzed regarding SNP distribution. We demonstrated that the observed specific anosmia for trimethylamine is not correlated with a SNP in the coding sequence of one of the putatively functional human TAAR genes.

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