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Olfactory Receptors

  1. Dominique Giorgi,
  2. Isabelle Gaillard,
  3. Sylvie Rouquier

Published Online: 16 JUL 2007

DOI: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0005666.pub2



How to Cite

Giorgi, D., Gaillard, I. and Rouquier, S. 2007. Olfactory Receptors. eLS. .

Author Information

  1. CNRS, Institut de Génétique Humaine, Montpellier, France

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 16 JUL 2007


The sense of smell is mediated by olfactory receptors belonging to the seven-transmembrane G-protein-coupled receptor superfamily. They are expressed at the surface of the cilia of olfactory sensory neurons that emerge in the olfactory epithelium of the nasal cavity, and for some of them in mature spermatozoa. The specific binding of odorant ligands initiates signals transmitted to the central nervous system through different relays, allowing an individual to identify precisely a particular odour. In mammals, olfactory receptors are encoded by a large multigene family of about 1000 members whose evolution of the number of functional genes is related to species-specific olfactory needs and to olfactory ability.


  • sense of smell;
  • multigene family;
  • gene clusters;
  • gene expression;
  • tissue specificity