Ca2+-activated Cl- currents have been implicated in many cellular processes in different cells, but for many years, their molecular identity remained unknown. Particularly intriguing are Ca2+-activated Cl- currents in olfactory transduction, first described in the early 90s. Well characterized electrophysiologically, they carry most of the odorant-induced receptor current in the cilia of olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs). After many attempts to determine their molecular identity, TMEM16B was found to be abundantly expressed in the cilia of OSNs in 2009 and having biophysical properties like those of the native olfactory channel. A TMEM16B knockout mouse confirmed that TMEM16B was indeed the olfactory Cl- channel but also suggested a limited role in olfactory physiology and behavior. The question then arises of what the precise role of TMEM16b in olfaction is. Here we review the long story of this channel and its possible roles.
Keywords: TMEM16B; calcium activated chloride channels; electrophysiology; olfactory behavior; olfactory transduction.