We suggest a model in which a hierarchy of controls is exerted on the family of odorant receptor genes to assure that a sensory neuron expresses a single receptor from a family of 1000 genes. We propose that a cis-regulatory element directs the stochastic expression of only one gene from a large array of linked receptor genes. Moreover, only one allelic array encoding multiple receptor genes is active in an individual neuron. We demonstrate that in a neuron expressing a given receptor, expression derives exclusively from one allele. In addition, we observe that alleles encoding the odorant receptors are replicated asynchronously, a phenomenon consistently associated with allelic inactivation. This model, involving inactivation of one allelic array and cis control of the active array, provides a mechanism such that individual neurons express one or a small number of receptors.