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, 1 (12), 1857-69

Molecular and Cellular Basis of Human Olfaction


Molecular and Cellular Basis of Human Olfaction

Hanns Hatt. Chem Biodivers.


The human olfactory systems recognize and discriminate a large number of different odorant molecules. The detection of chemically distinct odorants begins with the binding of an odorant ligand to a specific receptor protein in the ciliary membrane of olfactory neurons. To address the problem of olfactory perception at a molecular level, we have cloned, functionally expressed, and characterized some of the human olfactory receptors from chromosome 17. Our results show that a receptor protein is capable of recognizing the particular chemical substructure of an odor molecule and, therefore, is able to respond only to odorants that have a defined molecular structure. These findings represent the beginning of the molecular understanding of odorant recognition in humans. In the future, this knowledge could be used for the design of synthetic ideal receptors for specific odors (biosensors), or the perfect odor molecule for a given receptor.

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