Recently, two large multigene families of putative G-protein-linked receptors that are expressed in distinct subpopulations of neurones in the vomeronasal organ have been identified. These receptors probably mediate pheromone detection. The most surprising aspects of these findings are that there are so many receptors of two very different classes and that the receptors are unrelated to their counterparts in the main olfactory epithelium. This suggests that many active ligands are likely to exert effects through the vomeronasal organ. Parallel experiments addressing the nature of these ligands indicate a role for some proteins, as well as small molecules, as functional mammalian pheromones. In combination, these results begin to suggest a molecular basis for mammalian pheromone signalling.