Mammalian odorant receptors: functional evolution and variation.
In mammals, the perception of smell starts with the activation of odorant receptors (ORs) by volatile molecules in the environment. The mammalian OR repertoire has been subject to rapid evolution, and is highly diverse within the human population. Recent advances in the functional expression and ligand identification of ORs allow for functional analysis of OR evolution, and reveal that changes in OR protein sequences translate into high degrees of functional variations. Moreover, in several cases the functional variation of a single OR affects the perception of its cognate odor ligand, providing clues as to how an odor is coded at the receptor level.
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