A novel heterotrimeric G-protein gamma-subunit has been cloned, and its function has been confirmed by expression and purification. This gamma-subunit is only detected in the olfactory epithelium, the vomeronasal epithelium and, to a lesser extent, the olfactory bulb. It is absent from all other tissues studied including the nasal respiratory epithelium. During development, expression of G gamma 8 in the olfactory epithelium parallels neurogenesis, peaking shortly after birth and declining in the adult. In situ hybridization studies localize expression of this novel gamma-subunit to the sensory neurons; hybridization is strongest in the region of the epithelium that contains immature neurons. Unlike proteins that are expressed only in mature olfactory neurons (e.g. olfactory marker protein or Golf alpha), expression of G gamma 8 in the olfactory epithelium is relatively unaffected by olfactory bulbectomy. In the vomeronasal epithelium expression of G gamma 8 is also highest in the developing neurons. Taken together, these findings are consistent with a very specific role for G gamma 8 in the development and turnover of olfactory and vomeronasal neurons.