Clustering of vomeronasal receptor genes is required for transcriptional stability but not for choice

Sci Adv. 2022 Nov 18;8(46):eabn7450. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.abn7450. Epub 2022 Nov 16.


Rodents perceive pheromones via vomeronasal receptors encoded by highly evolutionarily dynamic Vr and Fpr gene superfamilies. We report here that high numbers of V1r pseudogenes are scattered in mammalian genomes, contrasting with the clustered organization of functional V1r and Fpr genes. We also found that V1r pseudogenes are more likely to be expressed when located in a functional V1r gene cluster than when isolated. To explore the potential regulatory role played by the association of functional vomeronasal receptor genes with their clusters, we dissociated the mouse Fpr-rs3 from its native cluster via transgenesis. Singular and specific transgenic Fpr-rs3 transcription was observed in young vomeronasal neurons but was only transient. Our study of natural and artificial dispersed gene duplications uncovers the existence of transcription-stabilizing elements not coupled to vomeronasal gene units but rather associated with vomeronasal gene clusters and thus explains the evolutionary conserved clustered organization of functional vomeronasal genes.