Mammals employ large numbers of odorant receptors to sample and identify volatile chemicals in the environment. These receptors are thought to vary not only in specificity for particular odorants, but also in breadth of tuning. That is, some odorant receptors are narrowly focused on a few closely related structures, while other odorant receptors may be 'broadly tuned', responding to a wide variety of odorant structures. In this study, we have performed a detailed examination the mouse odorant receptor MOR256-17, demonstrating that this receptor is broadly tuned. This receptor responds to odorant structures that span a significant portion of a multi-dimensional odor space. However, we found that broad tuning was not a defining characteristic of other members the MOR256 subfamily. Two additional members of this odorant receptor subfamily (MOR256-8 and MOR256-22) were more narrowly focused on small sets of odorant structures. Interestingly, the receptive range of MOR256-17 encompassed a variety of nitrotoluenes, including various trinitrotoluene synthesis intermediates, degradation products and trinitrotoluene itself, suggesting the potential utility of odorant receptors in the development of sensing technologies for the detection of explosives and other forms of contraband.
© 2012 The Authors. Journal of Neurochemistry © 2012 International Society for Neurochemistry.