Navigation Links
Shape changes in aroma-producing molecules determine the fragrances we detect

NEW YORK, December 22, 2008 - Shakespeare wrote "a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." But would it if the molecules that generate its fragrance were to change their shape?

That's what Dr. Kevin Ryan, Assistant Professor of Chemistry at The City College of New York (CCNY) and collaborators in the laboratory of Dr. Stuart Firestein, Professor of Biology at Columbia University, set out to investigate. Their findings, reported today in the journal "Chemistry & Biology," shed new insight into how our sense of smell works and have potential applications in the design of flavors and fragrances.

When odor-producing molecules, known as odorants, pass through the nose, they trigger intracellular changes in a subset of the approximately 400 different varieties olfactory sensory neurons (OSN) housed in the nose's internal membrane tissue, Professor Ryan explained. The unique reaction pattern produced, known as the olfactory code, is sent as a signal to the brain, which leads to perception of odors.

Professor Ryan and his team wanted to learn how these receptor cells respond when odorants change their shape. They studied the odorant octanal, an eight-carbon aldehyde that occurs in many flowers and citrus fruits. Octanal is a structurally flexible molecule that can adapt to many different shapes by rotating its chemical bonds.

The researchers designed and synthesized eight-carbon aldehydes that resembled octanal, but had their carbon chains locked by adding one additional bond. These molecules were tested on genetically engineered OSNs known to respond to octanal. This work was done in Professor Firestein's laboratory at Columbia.

The aldehyde molecules that could stretch to their greatest length triggered strong activity in the OSNs. However, those molecules whose carbon chains were constrained into a U shape blocked the receptor and left the cell unable to sense octanal.

"Conformationally constrained odorants were more selective in the number of OSNs they activated," Professor Ryan noted. "The results indicate that these odorant molecules might be able to alter fragrance mixture odors in two ways: by muting the activity of flexible odorants present in a mixture and by activating a smaller subset of OSNs than chemically related flexible odorants. This would produce a different olfactory code signature."

Olfactory receptors belong to the G-protein coupled receptor (GPCR) class of proteins, a family of molecules found in cell membranes throughout the body. Professor Ryan pointed out that half of all commercial pharmaceuticals work by interaction with proteins within this family. Thus, the findings could also have applications to GPCR drug design, as well.


Contact: Ellis Simon
City College of New York

Related biology news :

1. Root system architecture arises from coupling cell shape to auxin transport
2. Ancient magma superpiles may have shaped the continents
3. Apple or pear shape is not main culprit to heart woes -- its liver fat
4. Wistar scientists find key to keeping killer T cells in prime shape for fighting infection, cancer
5. Penn scientists discover cells reorganize shape to fit the situation
6. Duke-NIEHS team shows how DNA repairs may reshape the genome
7. Parents shape whether their children learn to eat fruits and vegetables
8. Water is designer fluid that helps proteins change shape, scientists say
9. Smart materials get smarter with ability to better control shape and size
10. Saving face with a baby-face? Shape of CEOs face affects public perception
11. Courtship pattern shaped by emergence of a new gene in fruit flies
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/20/2015)... 20, 2015 NXTD ) ("NXT-ID" ... the growing mobile commerce market and creator of the ... , was recently interviewed on The RedChip Money ... this weekend on Bloomberg Europe , Bloomberg Asia, ... --> NXTD ) ("NXT-ID" or the "Company"), a ...
(Date:11/19/2015)... , Nov. 19, 2015  Based on its in-depth ... Sullivan recognizes BIO-key with the 2015 Global Frost & ... Frost & Sullivan presents this award to the company ... to the needs of the market it serves. The ... meets and expands on customer base demands, the overall ...
(Date:11/19/2015)... NEW YORK , Nov. 19, 2015  Although ... the market is dominated by a few companies, according ... Qiagen. These companies own 51% of the market share of ... report, The World Market for Molecular Diagnostic ... "The market is still controlled by one ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... November 24, 2015 , ... International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering ... premier annual events for pharmaceutical manufacturing: 2015 Annual Meeting. The conference took place ... the largest number of attendees in more than a decade. , “The ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... November 24, 2015 --> ... research report "Oligonucleotide Synthesis Market by Product & Services ... Synthesis, Diagnostic, DNA, RNAi), End-User (Research, Pharmaceutical & Biotech, ... MarketsandMarkets, the market is expected to reach USD 1,918.6 ... at a CAGR of 10.1% during the forecast period. ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... SHPG ) announced today that Jeff ... 27 th Annual Healthcare Conference in New York ... a.m. EST (1:30 p.m. GMT). --> SHPG ) announced ... in the Piper Jaffray 27 th Annual Healthcare Conference in ... 1, 2015, at 8:30 a.m. EST (1:30 p.m. GMT). --> ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... CITY , Nov. 24, 2015 /PRNewswire/ - ... "Company") announced today that the remaining 11,000 post-share ... Share Purchase Warrants (the "Series B Warrants") subject ... were exercised on November 23, 2015, which will ... Shares.  After giving effect to the issuance of ...
Breaking Biology Technology: