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Cell. 1998 Dec 23;95(7):917-26.

Identification of ligands for olfactory receptors by functional expression of a receptor library.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland 21205, USA.


The recognition of odorants by olfactory receptors represents the first stage in odor discrimination. Here, we report the generation of an expression library containing a large and diverse repertoire of mouse olfactory receptor sequences in the transmembrane II-VII region. From this library, 80 chimeric receptors were tested against 26 odorants after transfection into HEK-293 cells. Three receptors were identified to respond to micromolecular concentrations of carvone, (-) citronellal, and limonene, respectively. We also found that the mouse I7 receptor, unlike the rat I7 receptor, prefers heptanal instead of octanal, as a result of a single valine-to-isoleucine substitution. This finding represents the beginning of a molecular understanding of odorant recognition. The identification, on a large scale, of cognate receptor-odorant interactions should provide insight into olfactory coding mechanisms.

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