Olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs) which express distinct odorant receptor (OR) genes are spatially arranged within the mouse olfactory epithelium. Towards an understanding of the mechanisms which determine these patterns, representative OR genes which are typically expressed in the unique central patch of the epithelium were investigated. Inside the patch, numerous OSNs which initially selected a representative gene from this OR group finally expressed another gene from the group, indicating that OSNs inside the patch ‘switch’ between these genes. If an OSN successively chose genes from the same OR gene cluster, these originated from the same parental chromosome. A deletion of the olfactory cyclic nucleotide-gated ion channel altered the distribution pattern of distinct OSN populations; they were no longer located exclusively inside the patch. Together, the results indicate that OSNs inside the patch initially sample several OR genes for expression; for their correct patterning in the OE, odor-induced activity appears to play a critical role.