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Chem Senses. 2006 Sep;31(7):655-64. Epub 2006 Jun 22.

Olfactory sensitivity for enantiomers and their racemic mixtures--a comparative study in CD-1 mice and spider monkeys.

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Department of Neurobiology, Yale University School of Medicine, 333 Cedar Street, New Haven, CT 06510, USA.


Using a conditioning paradigm, the olfactory sensitivity of six CD-1 mice for the enantiomers of carvone and of limonene as well as for their racemic mixtures was investigated. With all six stimuli, the animals significantly discriminated concentrations <or=0.1 ppm (parts per million) from the odorless solvent, and with five of the six stimuli, the best-scoring animals were even able to detect concentrations <or=1 ppb (parts per billion). Five spider monkeys tested in parallel were found to detect the same stimuli at concentrations <1 ppm, and with two of the stimuli, they were also able to discriminate concentrations <1 ppb from the solvent. The results showed 1) both CD-1 mice and spider monkeys to have a well-developed olfactory sensitivity for the stimuli tested, with no systematic difference in performance between species; 2) the effect of chirality on detectability of the enantiomers to be substance specific; 3) no systematic effect of the presence (carvone) or absence (limonene) of a functional carbonyl group on detectability of the enantiomers; and 4) that spider monkeys detected the racemic mixtures of both carvone and limonene at lower concentrations compared to the unmixed compounds, whereas the mice failed to do so. These findings lend support to the growing body of evidence suggesting that between-species comparisons of the relative size of olfactory brain structures do not allow us to reliably predict olfactory sensitivity. As mice and spider monkeys are thought to share a similar number of functional olfactory receptor genes, the findings further suggest that differences in the relative abundance of chiral-specific olfactory receptor types might account for the observed difference in mixture additivity at threshold level between the two species. These threshold data may provide useful information for the choice of adequate stimulus concentrations in electrophysiological or imaging studies of the olfactory system or investigations of the discriminative abilities of mice and spider monkeys.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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