The olfactory receptor (OR) subgenome harbors the largest known gene family in mammals, disposed in clusters on numerous chromosomes. One of the best characterized OR clusters, located at human chromosome 17p13.3, has previously been studied by us in human and in other primates, revealing a conserved set of 17 OR genes. Here, we report the identification of a syntenic OR cluster in the mouse and the partial DNA sequence of many of its OR genes. A probe for the mouse M5 gene, orthologous to one of the OR genes in the human cluster (OR17-25), was used to isolate six PAC clones, all mapping by in situ hybridization to mouse chromosome 11B3-11B5, a region of shared synteny with human chromosome 17p13.3. Thirteen mouse OR sequences amplified and sequenced from these PACs allowed us to construct a putative physical map of the OR gene cluster at the mouse Olfr1 locus. Several points of evidence, including a strong similarity in subfamily composition and at least four cases of gene orthology, suggest that the mouse Olfr1 and the human 17p13.3 clusters are orthologous. A detailed comparison of the OR sequences within the two clusters helps trace their independent evolutionary history in the two species. Two types of evolutionary scenarios are discerned: cases of "true orthologous genes" in which high sequence similarity suggests a shared conserved function, as opposed to instances in which orthologous genes may have undergone independent diversification in the realm of "free reign" repertoire expansion.
Copyright 2001 Academic Press.