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Published January 14, 2004 | public
Journal Article

Olfactory receptor antagonism between odorants


The detection of thousands of volatile odorants is mediated by several hundreds of different G protein-coupled olfactory receptors (ORs). The main strategy in encoding odorant identities is a combinatorial receptor code scheme in that different odorants are recognized by different sets of ORs. Despite increasing information on agonist–OR combinations, little is known about the antagonism of ORs in the mammalian olfactory system. Here we show that odorants inhibit odorant responses of OR(s), evidence of antagonism between odorants at the receptor level. The antagonism was demonstrated in a heterologous OR-expression system and in single olfactory neurons that expressed a given OR, and was also visualized at the level of the olfactory epithelium. Dual functions of odorants as an agonist and an antagonist to ORs indicate a new aspect in the receptor code determination for odorant mixtures that often give rise to novel perceptual qualities that are not present in each component. The current study also provides insight into strategies to modulate perceived odorant quality.

Additional Information

© 2004 European Molecular Biology Organization. Received: 30 May 2003; accepted: 24 November 2003; Published online: 18 December 2003. We thank T Hasegawa Co Ltd and Takasago International Corp for odorant compounds, and H Watanabe for valuable discussions. This work was supported in part by grants from MEXT and PROBRAIN Japan. KT is a recipient of grants from Uehara Memorial Foundation, Kato Memorial Bioscience Foundation, The Naito Foundation, and The Mochida Memorial Foundation.

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