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Cell. 1997 Aug 22;90(4):775-84.

A multigene family encoding a diverse array of putative pheromone receptors in mammals.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Department of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


The vomeronasal organ of mammals is an olfactory sensory structure that detects pheromones. It contains two subsets of sensory neurons that differentially express G alpha(o) and G alpha(i2). By comparing gene expression in single neurons, we identified a novel multigene family that codes for a diverse array of candidate pheromone receptors (VRs) expressed by the G alpha(o)+ subset. Different VRs are expressed by different neurons, but those neurons are interspersed, suggesting a distributed mode of sensory coding. Chromosome mapping experiments suggest an evolutionary connection between genes encoding VRs and receptors for volatile odorants. However, a dramatically different structure for VRs and the existence of variant VR mRNA forms indicate that there are diverse strategies to detect functionally distinct sensory stimuli.

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