Emx2 stimulates odorant receptor gene expression

Chem Senses. 2008 Nov;33(9):825-37. doi: 10.1093/chemse/bjn061. Epub 2008 Oct 14.


The mechanisms selecting a single odorant receptor (OR) gene for expression in each olfactory sensory neuron (OSN) establish an OR expression pattern critical for odor discrimination. These mechanisms are largely unknown, but putative OR promoters contain homeodomain-like sites, implicating homeobox transcription factors such as Emx2. At embryonic day 18.5, expression of 49-76% of ORs was decreased in mice lacking Emx2, depending on the metric used. The decreases were due to fewer OSNs expressing each OR. Affected ORs showed changes that were disproportionately greater than the 42% reduction in mature neurons and similar decreases in unrelated olfactory neuron-enriched messenger RNAs in Emx2(-/-) mice. Both Class I and Class II ORs decreased, as did ORs expressed in both the dorsal and ventral regions of the epithelium. Conversely, 7% of Class II ORs tested were expressed more frequently, suggesting that some ORs are independent of Emx2. Emx2 helps stimulate transcription for many OR genes, which we hypothesize is through direct action at OR promoters, but Emx2 appears to have no significant role in regulating other aspects of OR gene expression, including the zonal patterns, OR gene cluster selection mechanisms, and singularity of OR gene choice.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Shape
  • Epithelial Cells / cytology
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Homeodomain Proteins / genetics
  • Homeodomain Proteins / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Multigene Family / genetics
  • Olfactory Bulb / cytology
  • Olfactory Bulb / growth & development
  • Olfactory Bulb / metabolism
  • Receptors, Odorant / genetics*
  • Transcription Factors / deficiency
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*


  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • Receptors, Odorant
  • Transcription Factors
  • empty spiracles homeobox proteins