The molecular receptive range of an odorant receptor

Nat Neurosci. 2000 Dec;3(12):1248-55. doi: 10.1038/81774.


An odor perception is the brain's interpretation of the activation pattern of many peripheral sensory neurons that are differentially sensitive to a wide variety of odors. The sensitivity of these neurons is determined by which of the thousand or so odor receptor proteins they express on their surface. Understanding the odor code thus requires mapping the receptive range of odorant receptors. We have adopted a pharmacological approach that uses a large and diverse pool of odorous compounds to characterize the molecular receptive field of an odor receptor. We found a high specificity for certain molecular features, but high tolerance for others-a strategy that enables the olfactory apparatus to be both highly discriminating, and able to recognize several thousand odorous compounds.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aldehydes / agonists
  • Aldehydes / chemical synthesis
  • Aldehydes / chemistry
  • Animals
  • Carbon / chemistry
  • Genetic Vectors / physiology
  • Ligands
  • Molecular Structure
  • Molecular Weight
  • Odorants / analysis*
  • Olfactory Mucosa / cytology
  • Olfactory Mucosa / metabolism*
  • Rats
  • Receptors, Odorant / agonists*
  • Receptors, Odorant / drug effects*
  • Receptors, Odorant / metabolism*
  • Recombinant Proteins / drug effects
  • Recombinant Proteins / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Smell / physiology*


  • Aldehydes
  • Ligands
  • Receptors, Odorant
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • odorant receptor 17
  • Carbon
  • caprylic aldehyde