ABSTRACT: Olfaction represents an ancient, evolutionarily critical physiologic system. In humans, chemosensation mediates safety, nutrition, sensation of pleasure, and general well-being. Factors that affect human olfaction included structural aspects of the nasal cavity that can modulate airflow and therefore odorant access to the olfactory cleft, and inflammatory disease, which can affect both airflow as well as olfactory nerve function. After signals are generated, olfactory information is processed and coded in the olfactory bulb and disseminated to several areas in the brain. The discovery of olfactory receptors by Axel and Buck sparked greater understanding of the molecular basis of olfaction. However, the precise mechanisms used by this system are still under great scrutiny due to the complexity of understanding how an enormous number of chemically diverse odorant molecules are coded into signals understood by the brain. Additionally, it has been challenging to dissect olfactory sensation due to the multiple areas of areas of the brain that receive and modulate this information. Consequently, our knowledge of olfactory dysfunction in humans remains primitive. Aging represents the major cause of loss of smell, although a number of clinical and environmental factors are thought to affect chemosensory function. Treatment options focus on reducing sinonasal inflammation when present, ruling out other treatable causes, and counseling patients on safety measures.
Project description:Olfactory receptor (OR) genes were discovered more than a decade ago, when Buck and Axel observed that, in rats, certain G-protein coupled receptors are expressed exclusively in the olfactory epithelium. Subsequently, protein sequence similarity was used to identify entire OR gene repertoires of a number of mammalian species, but only in mouse were these predictions followed up by expression studies in olfactory epithelium. To rectify this, we have developed a DNA microarray that contains probes for most predicted human OR loci and used that array to examine OR gene expression profiles in olfactory epithelium tissues from three individuals.We detected expression of 437 (76%) human OR genes in these olfactory epithelia. Interestingly, we detected widespread expression of OR pseudogenes, an observation that may shed light on the mechanism of OR gene choice in the olfactory sensory neurons. To address the hypothesis that OR genes may carry out additional functions, we also characterized the expression of OR genes in a number of non-olfactory tissues.While our results corroborate the functional annotation of the majority of predicted human odorant receptors, we find that a large number of putative human OR genes are expressed in non-olfactory tissues, sometimes exclusively so. Our evolutionary analysis of ectopically expressed human OR genes does not lend support to the hypothesis that these genes have alternative functions.
Project description:The sense of smell is arguably our most primal faculty and also the least understood. Even our own olfactorily impaired species is capable of detecting approximately 10,000 distinct scents [Buck, L. & Axel, R. (1991) Cell 65, 175-187]. To achieve that amazing diversity, mammals have approximately 1,000 olfactory genes, which accounts for approximately 3% of their entire genome [Mombaerts, P. (1999) Science 286, 707-711]. The olfactory receptors (ORs) are believed to be seven-helix transmembrane proteins, with an odorant-binding site on the periplasmic domain and a G protein-binding site on the cytoplasmic domain. Odorants first bind to an OR, which then undergoes some structural change that triggers the G protein activation and the following cascade of events leading to nerve cell activity. The structural details of ORs, however, remain to be determined. In this paper, we will describe a hypothesis in which metal ions play an important role for odorant recognition. We analyze the predicted structure and consensus sequence of the ORs and propose a metal-binding site in the loop between fourth and fifth helix (4-5 loop). We have prepared synthetically a pentapeptide that contains this putative binding site and find that it not only has high affinity for binding Cu(II) and Zn(II) ions, but that it also undergoes a dramatic transition to an alpha-helical structure upon metal ion binding. Based on these observations, we propose a "shuttlecock" mechanism for the possible structural change in ORs upon odorant binding. This mechanism involves membrane penetration of the 4-5 loop after residue charge neutralization by metal ion binding.
Project description:The shape recognition model of olfaction maintains that odorant reception probes physicochemical properties such as size, shape, electric charge, and hydrophobicity of the ligand. Recently, insects were shown to distinguish common from deuterated isotopomers of the same odorant, suggesting the involvement of other molecular properties to odorant reception. Via two-photon functional microscopy we investigated how common and deuterated isoforms of natural odorants are coded within the honeybee brain. Our results provide evidence that (i) different isotopomers generate different neuronal activation maps, (ii) isotopomer sensitivity is a general mechanism common to multiple odorant receptors, and (iii) isotopomer specificity is highly consistent across individuals. This indicates that honeybee's olfactory system discriminates between isotopomers of the same odorant, suggesting that other features, such as molecular vibrations, may contribute to odour signal transduction.
Project description:Anopheles gambiae is a highly anthropophilic mosquito responsible for the majority of malaria transmission in Africa. The biting and host preference behavior of this disease vector is largely influenced by its sense of smell, which is presumably facilitated by G protein-coupled receptor signaling [Takken, W. & Knols, B. (1999) Annu. Rev. Entomol. 44, 131-157]. Because of the importance of host preference to the mosquitoes' ability to transmit disease, we have initiated studies intended to elucidate the molecular mechanisms underlying olfaction in An. gambiae. In the course of these studies, we have identified a number of genes potentially involved in signal transduction, including a family of candidate odorant receptors. One of these receptors, encoded by GPRor7 (hereafter referred to as AgOr7), is remarkably similar to an odorant receptor that is expressed broadly in olfactory tissues and has been identified in Drosophila melanogaster and other insects [Krieger, J., Klink, O., Mohl, C., Raming, K. & Breer, H. (2003) J. Comp. Physiol. A 189, 519-526; Vosshall, L. B., Amrein, H., Morozov, P. S., Rzhetsky, A. & Axel, R. (1999) Cell 96, 725-736]. We have observed AgOr7 expression in olfactory and gustatory tissues in adult An. gambiae and during several stages of the mosquitoes' development. Within the female adult peripheral chemosensory system, antiserum against the AgOR7 polypeptide labels most sensilla of the antenna and maxillary palp as well as a subset of proboscis sensilla. Furthermore, AgOR7 antiserum labeling is observed within the larval antenna and maxillary palpus. These results are consistent with a role for AgOr7 in both olfaction and gustation in An. gambiae and raise the possibility that AgOr7 orthologs may also be of general importance to both modalities of chemosensation in other insects.
Project description:Olfaction is mediated by the binding of odorant molecules to olfactory receptors (ORs). There are numerous proteins in the nasal mucus, and they contribute to olfaction through various mechanisms. Cytochrome P450 (CYP) family members are known to be present in the olfactory epithelium and are thought to affect olfaction by enzymatic conversion of odorant molecules. In this study, we examined the effects of CYPs on the ligand responses of ORs in heterologous cells. Among the CYPs tested, co-expression of CYP1a2 significantly affected the responses of various ORs, including MOR161-2, to acetophenone. Conversion of acetophenone to methyl salicylate was observed in the medium of CYP1a2-expressing cells. MOR161-2-expressing cells exhibited significantly greater responses to methyl salicylate than to acetophenone. Finally, we analyzed the responses of olfactory neurons expressing MOR161-2 in vivo using the phosphorylated ribosomal protein S6 as a marker. MOR161-2 responded to both acetophenone and methyl salicylate in vivo. When the olfactory mucus was washed out by the injection of PBS to mouse nasal cavity, the response of MOR161-2 to acetophenone was reduced, while that to methyl salicylate did not change. Our data suggest that CYP1a2 affects OR activation by converting acetophenone to methyl salicylate.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) exhibit two clusters of core symptoms, i.e., social and communication impairment, and repetitive behaviors and sensory abnormalities. Our previous study demonstrated that TBR1, a causative gene of ASD, controls axonal projection and neuronal activation of amygdala and regulates social interaction and vocal communication in a mouse model. Behavioral defects caused by <i>Tbr1</i> haploinsufficiency can be ameliorated by increasing neural activity via D-cycloserine treatment, an N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) coagonist. In this report, we investigate the role of TBR1 in regulating olfaction and test whether D-cycloserine can also improve olfactory defects in <i>Tbr1</i> mutant mice.<h4>Methods</h4>We used <i>Tbr1</i> <sup><i>+/-</i></sup> mice as a model to investigate the function of TBR1 in olfactory sensation and discrimination of non-social odors. We employed a behavioral assay to characterize the olfactory defects of <i>Tbr1</i> <sup><i>+/-</i></sup> mice. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and histological analysis were applied to characterize anatomical features. Immunostaining was performed to further analyze differences in expression of TBR1 subfamily members (namely TBR1, TBR2, and TBX21), interneuron populations, and dendritic abnormalities in olfactory bulbs. Finally, C-FOS staining was used to monitor neuronal activation of the olfactory system upon odor stimulation.<h4>Results</h4><i>Tbr1</i> <sup><i>+/-</i></sup> mice exhibited smaller olfactory bulbs and anterior commissures, reduced interneuron populations, and an abnormal dendritic morphology of mitral cells in the olfactory bulbs. <i>Tbr1</i> haploinsufficiency specifically impaired olfactory discrimination but not olfactory sensation. Neuronal activation upon odorant stimulation was reduced in the glomerular layer of <i>Tbr1</i> <sup><i>+/-</i></sup> olfactory bulbs. Furthermore, although the sizes of piriform and perirhinal cortices were not affected by <i>Tbr1</i> deficiency, neuronal activation was reduced in these two cortical regions in response to odorant stimulation. These results suggest an impairment of neuronal activation in olfactory bulbs and defective connectivity from olfactory bulbs to the upper olfactory system in <i>Tbr1</i> <sup><i>+/-</i></sup> mice. Systemic administration of D-cycloserine, an NMDAR co-agonist, ameliorated olfactory discrimination in <i>Tbr1</i> <sup><i>+/-</i></sup> mice, suggesting that increased neuronal activity has a beneficial effect on <i>Tbr1</i> deficiency.<h4>Conclusions</h4><i>Tbr1</i> regulates neural circuits and activity in the olfactory system to control olfaction. <i>Tbr1</i> <sup><i>+/-</i></sup> mice can serve as a suitable model for revealing how an autism causative gene controls neuronal circuits, neural activity, and autism-related behaviors.
Project description:A paradox of vertebrate brain evolution is the unexplained variability in the size of the olfactory bulb (OB), in contrast to other brain regions, which scale predictably with brain size. Such variability appears to be the result of selection for olfactory function, yet there is no obvious concordance that would predict the causal relationship between OB size and behavior. This discordance may derive from assuming the primary function of olfaction is odorant discrimination and acuity. If instead the primary function of olfaction is navigation, i.e., predicting odorant distributions in time and space, variability in absolute OB size could be ascribed and explained by variability in navigational demand. This olfactory spatial hypothesis offers a single functional explanation to account for patterns of olfactory system scaling in vertebrates, the primacy of olfaction in spatial navigation, even in visual specialists, and proposes an evolutionary scenario to account for the convergence in olfactory structure and function across protostomes and deuterostomes. In addition, the unique percepts of olfaction may organize odorant information in a parallel map structure. This could have served as a scaffold for the evolution of the parallel map structure of the mammalian hippocampus, and possibly the arthropod mushroom body, and offers an explanation for similar flexible spatial navigation strategies in arthropods and vertebrates.
Project description:The vertebrate olfactory system discriminates a wide variety of odorants by relaying coded information from olfactory sensory neurons in the olfactory epithelium to olfactory cortical areas of the brain. Recent studies have shown that the first step in odor discrimination is mediated by approximately 1000 distinct olfactory receptors, which comprise the largest family of G-protein-coupled receptors. In the present study, we used Ca(2+) imaging and single-cell reverse transcription-PCR techniques to identify mouse olfactory neurons responding to an odorant and subsequently to clone a receptor gene from the responsive cell. The functionally cloned receptors were expressed in heterologous systems, demonstrating that structurally related olfactory receptors recognized overlapping sets of odorants with distinct affinities and specificities. Our results provide direct evidence for the existence of a receptor code in which the identities of different odorants are specified by distinct combinations of odorant receptors that possess unique molecular receptive ranges. We further demonstrate that the receptor code for an odorant changes with odorant concentration. Finally, we show that odorant receptors in human embryonic kidney 293 cells couple to stimulatory G-proteins such as Galphaolf, resulting in odorant-dependent increases in cAMP. Odor discrimination is thus determined by differences in the receptive ranges of the odorant receptors that together encode specific odorant molecules.
Project description:Olfaction is one of the most crucial senses for vertebrates regarding foraging and social behavior. Therefore, it is of particular interest to investigate the sense of smell, its function on a molecular level, the signaling proteins involved in the process and the mechanism of required ion transport. In recent years, the precise role of the ion transporter NKCC1 in olfactory sensory neuron (OSN) chloride accumulation has been a controversial subject. NKCC1 is expressed in OSNs and is involved in chloride accumulation of dissociated neurons, but it had not been shown to play a role in mouse odorant sensation. Here, we present electro-olfactogram recordings (EOG) demonstrating that NKCC1-deficient mice exhibit significant defects in perception of a complex odorant mixture (Henkel100) in both air-phase and submerged approaches. Using next generation sequencing (NGS) and RT-PCR experiments of NKCC1-deficient and wild type mouse transcriptomes, we confirmed the absence of a highly expressed ion transporter that could compensate for NKCC1. Additional histological investigations demonstrated a reduced number of cells in the olfactory epithelium (OE), resulting in a thinner neuronal layer. Therefore, we conclude that NKCC1 is an important transporter involved in chloride ion accumulation in the olfactory epithelium, but it is also involved in OSN neurogenesis.
Project description:Most organisms rely on olfaction for survival and reproduction. The olfactory system of Drosophila melanogaster is one of the best characterized chemosensory systems and serves as a prototype for understanding insect olfaction. Olfaction in Drosophila is mediated by multigene families of odorant receptors and odorant binding proteins (OBPs). Although molecular response profiles of odorant receptors have been well documented, the contributions of OBPs to olfactory behavior remain largely unknown. Here, we used RNAi-mediated suppression of Obp gene expression and measurements of behavioral responses to 16 ecologically relevant odorants to systematically dissect the functions of 17 OBPs. We quantified the effectiveness of RNAi-mediated suppression by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction and used a proteomic liquid chromatography and tandem mass spectrometry procedure to show target-specific suppression of OBPs expressed in the antennae. Flies in which expression of a specific OBP is suppressed often show altered behavioral responses to more than one, but not all, odorants, in a sex-dependent manner. Similarly, responses to a specific odorant are frequently affected by suppression of expression of multiple, but not all, OBPs. These results show that OBPs are essential for mediating olfactory behavioral responses and suggest that OBP-dependent odorant recognition is combinatorial.