The perception of odours and pheromones is mediated by small soluble carrier proteins that belong to the family of lipocalins. Those secreted by the nasal mucosa are called odorant-binding proteins (OBPs) for their binding activity towards volatile compounds. Proteins of similar structure, which we call pheromone-binding proteins (PBPs), help to deliver volatile pheromones in the environment. They are present in high concentration in biological fluids, such as urine, saliva and vaginal discharge, involved in chemical communication between conspecifics. Several subclasses of OBPs have been identified in the same animal species, each best related to a particular group of PBPs. Such similarities, together with anatomical and behavioural evidence, suggest that OBPs may be involved in the perception of pheromones.