Navigation Links
Extensive variability in olfactory receptors influences human odor perception

PHILADELPHIA (December 8, 2013) According to Gertrude Stein, "A rose is a rose is a rose," but new research indicates that might not be the case when it comes to the rose's scent. Researchers from the Monell Center and collaborating institutions have found that as much as 30 percent of the large array of human olfactory receptor differs between any two individuals. This substantial variation is in turn reflected by variability in how each person perceives odors.

Humans have about 400 different types of specialized sensors, known as olfactory receptor proteins, that somehow work together to detect a large variety of odors.

"Understanding how this huge array of receptors encodes odors is a challenging task," says study lead author Joel Mainland, PhD, a molecular biologist at Monell. "The activation pattern of these 400 receptors encodes both the intensity of an odor and the quality for example, whether it smells like vanilla or smoke for the tens of thousands of different odors that represent everything we smell.

Right now, nobody knows how the activity patterns are translated into a signal that our brain registers as the odor."

Adding to the complexity of the problem, the underlying amino acid sequence can vary slightly for each of the 400 receptor proteins, resulting in one or more variants for each of the receptors. Each receptor variant responds to odors in a slightly different way and the variants are distributed across individuals such that nearly everyone has a unique combination of olfactory receptors.

To gain a better understanding of the extent of olfactory receptor variation and how this impacts human odor perception, Mainland and his collaborators used a combination of high-throughput assays to measure how single receptors and individual humans respond to odors. The results, published in Nature Neuroscience, provide a critical step towards understanding how olfactory receptors encode the intensity, pleasantness and quality of odor molecules.

The researchers first cloned 511 known variants of human olfactory receptors and embedded them in host cells that are easy to grow in the laboratory. The next step was to measure whether each receptor variant responded to a panel of 73 different odor molecules. This process identified 28 receptor variants that responded to at least one of the odor molecules.

Drilling down, the researchers next examined the DNA of 16 olfactory receptor genes, discovering considerable variation within the genes for discrete receptors.

Using sophisticated mathematical modeling to extrapolate from these results, Mainland predicts that the olfactory receptors of any two individuals differ by about 30 percent. This means that for any two randomly chosen individuals, approximately 140 of their 400 olfactory receptors will differ in how they respond to odor molecules.

To understand how variation in a single olfactory receptor affects odor perception, the researchers studied responses to odors in individuals having different variants of a receptor known as OR10G4. They found that variations in the OR10G4 receptor were related to how people perceive the intensity and pleasantness of guaiacol, a molecule that often is described as having a 'smoky' characteristic.

Moving forward, a current study is relating the olfactory receptor repertoire of hundreds of people with how those people respond to odors. The data will enable the researchers to identify additional examples of how changes in individual receptors affect olfactory perception.

"The long-term goal is to figure out how the receptors encode odor molecules well enough that we can actually create any odor we want by manipulating the receptors directly," said Mainland. "In essence, this would allow us to 'digitize' olfaction."


Contact: Leslie Stein
Monell Chemical Senses Center

Related biology news :

1. Clinical ovarian cancers display extensive genetic heterogeneity, study suggests multiple treatment
2. Mild cognitive impairment in Parkinsons disease may be linked with extensive neurodegeneration
3. Long-term study links box jellyfish abundance, environmental variability at Waikiki Beach
4. Researchers use nanoscale patches to sensitize targeted cell receptors
5. Activation of cortical type 2 cannabinoid receptors ameliorates ischemic brain injury
6. Lady beetle diet influences its effectiveness as biocontrol agent
7. Cup color influences the taste of hot chocolate
8. Gladstone scientists discover novel mechanism by which calorie restriction influences longevity
9. Scientists identify new gene that influences survival in ALS
10. New research questions how fat influences flavor perception
11. Discovery of partial skeleton suggests ruggedly built, tree-climbing human ancestor
Post Your Comments:
(Date:3/30/2017)... 2017  On April 6-7, 2017, will host ... hackathon at Microsoft,s headquarters in Redmond, ... on developing health and wellness apps that provide a ... Genome is the first hackathon for personal genomics ... companies in the genomics, tech and health industries are ...
(Date:3/30/2017)... 30, 2017 Trends, opportunities and forecast in ... by technology (fingerprint, AFIS, iris recognition, facial recognition, hand ... by end use industry (government and law enforcement, commercial ... banking, and others), and by region ( North ... Asia Pacific , and the Rest of ...
(Date:3/28/2017)... India , March 28, 2017 ... IP, Biometrics), Hardware (Camera, Monitors, Servers, Storage Devices), Software ... Vertical, and Region - Global Forecast to 2022", published ... Billion in 2016 and is projected to reach USD ... between 2017 and 2022. The base year considered for ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:10/11/2017)... ... October 11, 2017 , ... ... its endogenous context, enabling overexpression experiments and avoiding the use of exogenous expression ... guides is transformative for performing systematic gain-of-function studies. , This complement to ...
(Date:10/11/2017)... ... October 11, 2017 , ... ComplianceOnline’s Medical Device Summit is ... and 8th June 2018 in San Francisco, CA. The Summit brings together current and ... distinguished CEOs, board directors and government officials from around the world to address key ...
(Date:10/11/2017)... 2017  VMS BioMarketing, a leading provider of patient support ... Nurse Educator (CNE) network, which will launch this week. The ... health care professionals to enhance the patient care experience by ... other health care professionals to help women who have been ... ...
(Date:10/11/2017)... ... October 11, 2017 , ... Disappearing forests and increased emissions are the ... million people each year. Especially those living in larger cities are affected by air ... one of the most pollution-affected countries globally - decided to take action. , “I ...
Breaking Biology Technology: