Coding of odors by a receptor repertoire

Cell. 2006 Apr 7;125(1):143-60. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2006.01.050.


We provide a systematic analysis of how odor quality, quantity, and duration are encoded by the odorant receptor repertoire of the Drosophila antenna. We test the receptors with a panel of over 100 odors and find that strong responses are sparse, with response density dependent on chemical class. Individual receptors range along a continuum from narrowly tuned to broadly tuned. Broadly tuned receptors are most sensitive to structurally similar odorants. Strikingly, inhibitory responses are widespread among receptors. The temporal dynamics of the receptor repertoire provide a rich representation of odor quality, quantity, and duration. Receptors with similar odor sensitivity often map to widely dispersed glomeruli in the antennal lobe. We construct a multidimensional "odor space" based on the responses of each individual receptor and find that the positions of odors depend on their chemical class, concentration, and molecular complexity. The space provides a basis for predicting behavioral responses to odors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animal Structures / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Drosophila melanogaster / metabolism
  • Models, Molecular
  • Odorants / analysis*
  • Organic Chemicals / analysis*
  • Organic Chemicals / chemistry
  • Organic Chemicals / metabolism
  • Principal Component Analysis
  • Receptors, Odorant / metabolism*
  • Substrate Specificity


  • Organic Chemicals
  • Receptors, Odorant