Olfactory receptor and neural pathway responsible for highly selective sensing of musk odors

Neuron. 2014 Jan 8;81(1):165-78. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2013.10.021. Epub 2013 Dec 19.


Musk odorants are used widely in cosmetic industries because of their fascinating animalic scent. However, how this aroma is perceived in the mammalian olfactory system remains a great mystery. Here, we show that muscone, one musk odor secreted by various animals from stink glands, activates a few glomeruli clustered in a neuroanatomically unique anteromedial olfactory bulb. The muscone-responsive glomeruli are highly specific to macrocyclic ketones; interestingly, other synthetic musk odorants with nitro or polycyclic moieties or ester bonds activate distinct but nearby glomeruli. Anterodorsal bulbar lesions cause muscone anosmia, suggesting that this region is involved in muscone perception. Finally, we identified the mouse olfactory receptor, MOR215-1, that was a specific muscone receptor expressed by neurons innervating the muscone-responsive anteromedial glomeruli and also the human muscone receptor, OR5AN1. The current study documents the olfactory neural pathway in mice that senses and transmits musk signals from receptor to brain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Colforsin / pharmacology
  • Cycloparaffins / pharmacology
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Fatty Acids, Monounsaturated*
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects
  • Gene Expression Regulation / genetics
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / genetics
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Membrane Potentials / drug effects
  • Membrane Potentials / genetics
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Neural Cell Adhesion Molecules / metabolism
  • Odorants
  • Olfactory Bulb / cytology*
  • Olfactory Bulb / surgery
  • Olfactory Pathways / drug effects
  • Olfactory Pathways / physiology*
  • Olfactory Receptor Neurons / drug effects
  • Olfactory Receptor Neurons / physiology*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos / metabolism
  • Receptors, Odorant / genetics
  • Smell / drug effects
  • Smell / physiology*
  • Xenopus laevis


  • Cycloparaffins
  • Fatty Acids, Monounsaturated
  • Ncam2 protein, mouse
  • Neural Cell Adhesion Molecules
  • OR52A1 protein, human
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos
  • Receptors, Odorant
  • enhanced green fluorescent protein
  • musk
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Colforsin
  • muscone