Implausibility of the vibrational theory of olfaction.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

The vibrational theory of olfaction assumes that electron transfer occurs across odorants at the active sites of odorant receptors (ORs), serving as a sensitive measure of odorant vibrational frequencies, ultimately leading to olfactory perception. A previous study reported that human subjects differentiated hydrogen/deuterium isotopomers (isomers with isotopic atoms) of the musk compound cyclopentadecanone as evidence supporting the theory. Here, we find no evidence for such differentiation at the molecular level. In fact, we find that the human musk-recognizing receptor, OR5AN1, identified using a heterologous OR expression system and robustly responding to cyclopentadecanone and muscone, fails to distinguish isotopomers of these compounds in vitro. Furthermore, the mouse (methylthio)methanethiol-recognizing receptor, MOR244-3, as well as other selected human and mouse ORs, responded similarly to normal, deuterated, and (13)C isotopomers of their respective ligands, paralleling our results with the musk receptor OR5AN1. These findings suggest that the proposed vibration theory does not apply to the human musk receptor OR5AN1, mouse thiol receptor MOR244-3, or other ORs examined. Also, contrary to the vibration theory predictions, muscone-d30 lacks the 1,380- to 1,550-cm(-1) IR bands claimed to be essential for musk odor. Furthermore, our theoretical analysis shows that the proposed electron transfer mechanism of the vibrational frequencies of odorants could be easily suppressed by quantum effects of nonodorant molecular vibrational modes. These and other concerns about electron transfer at ORs, together with our extensive experimental data, argue against the plausibility of the vibration theory.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Block, E; Jang, S; Matsunami, H; Sekharan, S; Dethier, B; Ertem, MZ; Gundala, S; Pan, Y; Li, S; Li, Z; Lodge, SN; Ozbil, M; Jiang, H; Penalba, SF; Batista, VS; Zhuang, H

Published Date

  • May 26, 2015

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 112 / 21

Start / End Page

  • E2766 - E2774

PubMed ID

  • 25901328

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC4450420

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1091-6490

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1073/pnas.1503054112


  • eng

Conference Location

  • United States