One Neuron–Multiple Receptors: Increased Complexity in Olfactory Coding?

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Science's STKE  24 May 2005:
Vol. 2005, Issue 285, pp. pe25
DOI: 10.1126/stke.2852005pe25

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Olfaction—the sense of smell—is responsible for detecting molecules of immense structural variety. Precise recognition of such diverse stimuli requires a massive receptor repertoire. This functional challenge has been met by simultaneous expression of a multitude of odor-detecting receptors that all belong to the superfamily of heterotrimeric GTP-binding protein (G protein)–coupled receptors. Studies conducted over the past decade have led to the assumption that an individual olfactory sensory neuron expresses only a single odorant receptor, consequently giving rise to the "one receptor–one neuron" hypothesis. This idea is attractive because of its simplicity and has served as the basis for models of olfactory coding. However, recent reports regarding Drosophila have found exceptions to the rule that could have important implications for the logic of olfactory coding.

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