The human repertoire of odorant receptor genes and pseudogenes

Annu Rev Genomics Hum Genet. 2001;2:493-510. doi: 10.1146/annurev.genom.2.1.493.


The nose of Homo sapiens is a sophisticated chemical sensor. It is able to smell almost any type of volatile molecule, often at extraordinarily low concentrations, and can make fine perceptual discriminations between structurally related molecules. The diversity of odor recognition is mediated by odorant receptor (OR) genes, discovered in 1991 by Buck & Axel. OR genes form the largest gene families in mammalian genomes. A decade after their discovery, advances in the sequencing of the human genome have provided a first draft of the human OR repertoire: It consists of approximately 1000 sequences, residing in multiple clusters spread throughout the genome, with more than half being pseudogenes. Allelic variants are beginning to be recognized and may provide an opportunity for genotype-phenotype correlations. Here, I review the current knowledge of the human OR repertoire and summarize the limited information available regarding putative pheromone and taste receptors in humans.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Pseudogenes*
  • Receptors, Odorant / genetics*
  • Receptors, Odorant / physiology
  • Smell / genetics
  • Smell / physiology


  • Receptors, Odorant