Recent studies about the structural variation of genomic sequences have shown that there is a large amount of copy number variations (CNVs) of genes within species. Analyzing Redon et al.'s (2006) crude data on copy number variable regions (CNVRs), we previously showed that CNVs are particularly high for chemosensory receptor genes in human populations. In this paper, we reanalyzed the CNVs of these genes using more refined data by Perry et al. (2008). The results showed that the extent of CNVs is somewhat lower in this dataset than in the previous one, but that the extent is still substantial for olfactory receptor (OR), vomeronasal receptor (VR), and taste receptor (TR) genes. We also studied the CNVs for chemosensory receptor genes in mice, using CNVR data obtained from inbred strains. It was found that the extent of CNVs is quite substantial but is lower than that for human populations. However, because the mouse data came from inbred strains and might be biased, this conclusion should be regarded as tentative. Despite this reservation, the distribution of gene copy number for the OR gene family was approximately normal in both humans and mice, suggesting that genomic drift caused by random duplication and deletion of genes plays important roles in determining the evolutionary change of chemosensation.
Sensory coding strategies within vertebrates involve the expression of a limited number of receptor types per sensory cell. In mice, each vomeronasal sensory neuron transcribes monoallelically a single V1R pheromone receptor gene, chosen from a large V1R repertoire. The nature of the signals leading to this strict receptor expression is unknown, but is apparently based on a negative feedback mechanism initiated by the transcription of the first randomly chosen functional V1R gene. We show, in vivo, that the genetic replacement of the V1rb2 pheromone receptor coding sequence by an unrelated one from the odorant receptor gene M71, maintains gene exclusion. The expression of this exogenous odorant receptor in vomeronasal neurons does not trigger the transcription of odorant receptor-associated signaling molecules. These results strongly suggests that despite the very divergent odorant and vomeronasal receptor localization, function and transduction cascades, a common mechanism is used by these chemoreceptors to regulate their expression.
pheromone receptor; olfaction; gene regulation; mouse; monogenic expression
The mammalian vomeronasal organ (VNO) expresses two G-protein coupled receptor gene families that mediate pheromone responses, the V1R and V2R receptor genes. In rodents, there are ~150 V1R genes comprising 12 subfamilies organized in gene clusters at multiple chromosomal locations. Previously, we showed that several of these subfamilies had been extensively modulated by gene duplications, deletions, and gene conversions around the time of the evolutionary split of the mouse and rat lineages, consistent with the hypothesis that V1R repertoires might be involved in reinforcing speciation events. Here, we generated genome sequence for one large cluster containing two V1R subfamilies in Mus spretus, a closely related and sympatric species to Mus musculus, and investigated evolutionary change in these repertoires along the two mouse lineages.
We describe a comparison of spretus and musculus with respect to genome organization and synteny, as well as V1R gene content and phylogeny, with reference to previous observations made between mouse and rat. Unlike the mouse-rat comparisons, synteny seems to be largely conserved between the two mouse species. Disruption of local synteny is generally associated with differences in repeat content, although these differences appear to arise more from deletion than new integrations. Even though unambiguous V1R orthology is evident, we observe dynamic modulation of the functional repertoires, with two of seven V1Rb and one of eleven V1Ra genes lost in spretus, two V1Ra genes becoming pseudogenes in musculus, two additional orthologous pairs apparently subject to strong adaptive selection, and another divergent orthologous pair that apparently was subjected to gene conversion.
Therefore, eight of the 18 (~44%) presumptive V1Ra/V1Rb genes in the musculus-spretus ancestor appear to have undergone functional modulation since these two species diverged. As compared to the rat-mouse split, where modulation is evident by independent expansions of these two V1R subfamilies, divergence between musculus and spretus has arisen more by mutations within coding sequences. These results support the hypothesis that adaptive changes in functional V1R repertoires contribute to the delineation of very closely related species.
The vomeronasal organ (VNO) plays a key role in mediating the social and defensive responses of many terrestrial vertebrates to species- and sex-specific chemosignals1. Over 250 putative pheromone receptors have been identified in the mouse VNO2,3, but the nature of the signals detected by individual VNO receptors has not yet been elucidated. In order to gain insight into the molecular logic of VNO detection leading to mating, aggression, or defensive responses, we sought to uncover the response profiles of individual vomeronasal receptors to a wide range of animal cues. We describe here the repertoire of ethological and physiological stimuli detected by a large number of individual vomeronasal receptors, and define a global map of vomeronasal signal detection. We demonstrate that the two classes of vomeronasal receptors V1Rs and V2Rs use fundamentally different strategies to encode chemosensory information, and that distinct receptor subfamilies have evolved towards the specific recognition of certain animal groups or chemical structures. The association of large subsets of vomeronasal receptors with cognate, ethologically and physiologically relevant stimuli establishes the molecular foundation of vomeronasal information coding, and opens new avenues for further investigating the neural mechanisms underlying behavior specificity.
In mammals, pheromones play an important role in social and innate reproductive behavior within species. In rodents, vomeronasal receptor type 1 (V1R), which is specifically expressed in the vomeronasal organ, is thought to detect pheromones. The V1R gene repertoire differs dramatically between mammalian species, and the presence of species-specific V1R subfamilies in mouse and rat suggests that V1R plays a profound role in species-specific recognition of pheromones. In ruminants, however, the molecular mechanism(s) for pheromone perception is not well understood. Interestingly, goat male pheromone, which can induce out-of-season ovulation in anestrous females, causes the same pheromone response in sheep, and vice versa, suggesting that there may be mechanisms for detecting "inter-species" pheromones among ruminant species.
We isolated 23 goat and 21 sheep intact V1R genes based on sequence similarity with 32 cow V1R genes in the cow genome database. We found that all of the goat and sheep V1R genes have orthologs in their cross-species counterparts among these three ruminant species and that the sequence identity of V1R orthologous pairs among these ruminants is much higher than that of mouse-rat V1R orthologous pairs. Furthermore, all goat V1Rs examined thus far are expressed not only in the vomeronasal organ but also in the main olfactory epithelium.
Our results suggest that, compared with rodents, the repertoire of orthologous V1R genes is remarkably conserved among the ruminants cow, sheep and goat. We predict that these orthologous V1Rs can detect the same or closely related chemical compound(s) within each orthologous set/pair. Furthermore, all identified goat V1Rs are expressed in the vomeronasal organ and the main olfactory epithelium, suggesting that V1R-mediated ligand information can be detected and processed by both the main and accessory olfactory systems. The fact that ruminant and rodent V1Rs have distinct features suggests that ruminant and rodent V1Rs have evolved distinct functions.
The olfactory system meets niche- and species-specific demands by an accelerated evolution of its odorant receptor repertoires. In this review, we describe evolutionary processes that have shaped olfactory and vomeronasal receptor gene families in vertebrate genomes. We emphasize three important periods in the evolution of the olfactory system evident by comparative genomics: the adaptation to land in amphibian ancestors, the decline of olfaction in primates, and the delineation of putative pheromone receptors concurrent with rodent speciation. The rapid evolution of odorant receptor genes, the sheer size of the repertoire, as well as their wide distribution in the genome, presents a developmental challenge: how are these ever-changing odorant receptor repertoires coordinated within the olfactory system? A central organizing principle in olfaction is the specialization of sensory neurons resulting from each sensory neuron expressing only ~one odorant receptor allele. In this review, we also discuss this mutually exclusive expression of odorant receptor genes. We have considered several models to account for co-regulation of odorant receptor repertoires, as well as discussed a new hypothesis that invokes important epigenetic properties of the system.
We performed comprehensive data mining to explore the vomeronasal receptor (V1R and V2R) repertoires in mouse and rat using the mm5 and rn3 genome, respectively. This bioinformatic analysis was followed by investigation of gene expression using a custom designed high-density oligonucleotide array containing all of these receptors and other selected genes of interest. This array enabled us to detect the specific expression of V1R and V2Rs which were previously identified solely based on computational prediction from gene sequence data, thereby establishing that these genes are indeed part of the vomeronasal system, especially the V2Rs. One hundred sixty-eight V1Rs and 98 V2Rs were detected to be highly enriched in mouse vomeronasal organ (VNO), and 108 V1Rs and 87 V2Rs in rat VNO. We monitored the expression profile of mouse VR genes in other non-VNO tissues with the result that some VR genes were re-designated as VR-like genes based on their non-olfactory expression pattern. Temporal expression profiles for mouse VR genes were characterized and their patterns were classified, revealing the developmental dynamics of these so-called pheromone receptors. We found numerous patterns of temporal expression which indicate possible behavior-related functions. The uneven composition of VR genes in certain patterns suggests a functional differentiation between the two types of VR genes. We found the coherence between VR genes and transcription factors in terms of their temporal expression patterns. In situ hybridization experiments were performed to evaluate the cell number change over time for selected receptor genes.
vomeronasal receptor; V1R; V2R; microarray; gene expression profiling; developmental dynamics; bioinformatics; neuroscience
Vomeronasal sensitivity is important for detecting intraspecific pheromonal cues as well as environmental odorants and is involved in mating, social interaction, and other daily activities of many vertebrates. Two large families of seven-transmembrane G-protein–coupled receptors, V1rs and V2rs, bind to various ligands to initiate vomeronasal signal transduction. Although the macroevolution of V1r and V2r genes has been well characterized throughout vertebrates, especially mammals, little is known about their microevolutionary patterns, which hampers a clear understanding of the evolutionary forces behind the rapid evolutionary turnover of V1r and V2r genes and the great diversity in receptor repertoire across species. Furthermore, the role of divergent vomeronasal perception in enhancing premating isolation and maintaining species identity has not been evaluated. Here we sequenced 44 V1r genes and 25 presumably neutral noncoding regions in 14 wild-caught mice belonging to Mus musculus and M. domesticus, two closely related species with strong yet incomplete reproductive isolation. We found that nucleotide changes in V1rs are generally under weak purifying selection and that only ∼5% of V1rs may have been subject to positive selection that promotes nonsynonymous substitutions. Consistent with the low functional constraints on V1rs, 18 of the 44 V1rs have null alleles segregating in one or both species. Together, our results demonstrate that, despite occasional actions of positive selection, the evolution of V1rs is in a large part shaped by purifying selection and random drift. These findings have broad implications for understanding the driving forces of rapid gene turnovers that are often observed in the evolution of large gene families.
Mus musculus; Mus domesticus; vomeronasal receptor; pheromone detection; V1r; evolution
Comparative genomics provides a valuable tool for inferring the evolutionary history of physiological systems, particularly when this information is difficult to ascertain by morphological traits. One such example is the vomeronasal system (VNS), a vertebrate nasal chemosensory system that is responsible for detecting intraspecific pheromonal cues as well as environmental odorants. The morphological components of the VNS are found only in tetrapods, but the genetic components of the system have been found in teleost fish, in addition to tetrapods. To determine when the genetic components of the VNS originated, we searched for the VNS-specific genes in the genomes of two early diverging vertebrate lineages: the sea lamprey from jawless fishes and the elephant shark from cartilaginous fishes. Genes encoding vomeronasal type 1 receptors (V1Rs) and Trpc2, two components of the vomeronasal signaling pathway, are present in the sea lamprey genome, and both are expressed in the olfactory organ, revealing that the genetic components of the present-day VNS existed in the common ancestor of all extant vertebrates. Additionally, all three VNS genes, Trpc2, V1Rs, and vomeronasal type 2 receptors (V2Rs), are found in the elephant shark genome. Because V1Rs and V2Rs are related to two families of taste receptors, we also searched the early diverging vertebrate genomes for taste system genes and found them in the shark genome but not in the lamprey. Coupled with known distributions of the genetic components of the vertebrate main olfactory system, our results suggest staggered origins of vertebrate sensory systems. These findings are important for understanding the evolution of vertebrate sensory systems and illustrate the utility of the genome sequences of early diverging vertebrates for uncovering the evolution of vertebrate-specific traits.
Trpc2; V1R; V2R; vomeronasal; lamprey; shark
The mouse vomeronasal organ (VNO) processes chemosensory information, including pheromone signals that influence reproductive behaviors. The sensory neurons of the VNO express two types of chemosensory receptors, V1R and V2R. There are ~165 V1R genes in the mouse genome that have been classified into ~12 divergent subfamilies. Each sensory neuron of the apical compartment of the VNO transcribes only one of the repertoire of V1R genes. A model for mutually exclusive V1R transcription in these cells has been proposed in which each V1R gene might compete stochastically for a single transcriptional complex. This model predicts that the large repertoire of divergent V1R genes in the mouse genome contains common regulatory elements. In this study, we have characterized V1R promoter regions by comparative genomics and by mapping transcription start sites.
We find that transcription is initiated from ~1 kb promoter regions that are well conserved within V1R subfamilies. While cross-subfamily homology is not evident by traditional methods, we developed a heuristic motif-searching tool, LogoAlign, and applied this tool to identify motifs shared within the promoters of all V1R genes. Our motif-searching tool exhibits rapid convergence to a relatively small number of non-redundant solutions (97% convergence). We also find that the best motifs contain significantly more information than those identified in controls, and that these motifs are more likely to be found in the immediate vicinity of transcription start sites than elsewhere in gene blocks. The best motifs occur near transcription start sites of ~90% of all V1R genes and across all of the divergent subfamilies. Therefore, these motifs are candidate binding sites for transcription factors involved in V1R co-regulation.
Our analyses show that V1R subfamilies have broad and well conserved promoter regions from which transcription is initiated. Results from a new motif-finding algorithm, LogoAlign, designed for this context and more generally for searching large, hierarchical datasets, suggest the existence of common information-rich regulatory motifs that are shared across otherwise divergent V1R subfamilies.
The vomeronasal organ (VNO) is an olfactory structure that detects pheromones and environmental cues. It consists of sensory neurons that express evolutionary unrelated groups of transmembrane chemoreceptors. The predominant V1R and V2R receptor repertoires are believed to detect airborne and water-soluble molecules, respectively. It has been suggested that the shift in habitat of early tetrapods from water to land is reflected by an increase in the ratio of V1R/V2R genes. Snakes, which have a very large VNO associated with a sophisticated tongue delivery system, are missing from this analysis. Here, we use RNA-seq and RNA in situ hybridization to study the diversity, evolution, and expression pattern of the corn snake vomeronasal receptor repertoires. Our analyses indicate that snakes and lizards retain an extremely limited number of V1R genes but exhibit a large number of V2R genes, including multiple lineages of reptile-specific and snake-specific expansions. We finally show that the peculiar bigenic pattern of V2R vomeronasal receptor gene transcription observed in mammals is conserved in squamate reptiles, hinting at an important but unknown functional role played by this expression strategy. Our results do not support the hypothesis that the shift to a vomeronasal receptor repertoire dominated by V1Rs in mammals reflects the evolutionary transition of early tetrapods from water to land. This study sheds light on the evolutionary dynamics of the vomeronasal receptor families in vertebrates and reveals how mammals and squamates differentially adapted the same ancestral vomeronasal repertoire to succeed in a terrestrial environment.
vomeronasal organ (VNO); monogenic expression; evolution of sensorial abilities; squamates; snakes; phylogeny
The vertebrate vomeronasal system (VNS) detects intraspecific pheromones and environmental odorants. We sequenced segments of the gene encoding Trpc2, an ion channel crucial for vomeronasal signal transduction, in 11 species that represent all main basal lineages of Yinpterochiroptera, one of the two suborders of the order Chiroptera (bats). Our sequences show that Trpc2 is a pseudogene in each of the 11 bats, suggesting that all yinpterochiropterans lack vomeronasal sensitivity. The Trpc2 sequences from four species of Yangochiroptera, the other suborder of bats, suggest vomeronasal insensitivity in some but not all yangochiropterans. These results, together with the available morphological data from the bat VNS, strongly suggest multiple and widespread losses of vomeronasal signal transduction and sensitivity in bats. Future scrutiny of the specific functions of the VNS in the few bats that still retain the VNS may help explain why it is dispensable in most bats.
bats; olfaction; pseudogenization; Trpc2; vomeronasal system
The vomeronasal organ (VNO) detects pheromones via two large families of vomeronasal receptors: vomeronasal receptor 1 (V1R) and vomeronasal receptor 2 (V2R). Both VRs have a common receptor activation cascade involving transient receptor potential channel, subfamily C, member 2 (TRPC2).
We characterised the TRPC2 locus in a marsupial, the tammar wallaby (Macropus eugenii), and identified two independently regulated genes not previously recognised as distinct. 3'-located exons comprise bona fide TRPC2 whilst 5'-located exons, previously identified as part of TRPC2, comprise a distinct gene, which we term XNDR (XRCC1 N-terminal domain-related). The two genes show contrasting expression patterns in the tammar: TRPC2 is specifically expressed in adult and developing VNO, whereas XNDR is widely expressed in many tissues suggesting a non-VNO-specific role. Strong expression of TRPC2 was detected only after about day 30 post-partum, suggesting that the VNO may not be functional during early pouch life of the tammar. Similarly restricted expression of TRPC2 and widespread expression of XNDR was also detected in the platypus. Bioinformatic analysis of the genomes of a wide range of species suggests that the identity of XNDR and TRPC2 as distinct genes is conserved among vertebrates. Finally, we analysed the promoter of mammalian TRPC2 and identified a conserved binding site for NHLH1, a transcription factor previously implicated in VNO receptor neuron development.
Two functionally distinct vertebrate genes-XNDR and TRPC2 - occupy a genomic locus that was previously defined as a single gene in the mouse. The former is widely expressed with a putative role in DNA repair, while the latter shows VNO-specific expression under the probable regulation of NHLH1.
In terrestrial vertebrates, the vomeronasal organ (VNO) detects and transduces pheromone signals. VNO activation is thought to be mediated by the transient receptor potential C2 (TRPC2) channel. The aberrant behavioural phenotypes observed in TRPC2−/− mice are generally attributed to the lost VNO function. Recently, calcium-activated chloride channels have been shown to contribute to VNO activation. Here we show that CACCs can be activated in VNO slice preparations from the TRPC2−/− mice and this activation is blocked by pharmacological agents that inhibit intracellular Ca2+ release. Urine-evoked Cl− current is sufficient to drive spiking changes in VNO neurons from both wild-type (WT) and TRPC2−/− mice. Moreover, blocking Cl− conductance essentially abolishes VNO activation in WT neurons. These results suggest a TRPC2-independent signalling pathway in the VNO and the requirement of calcium-activated chloride channels currents to mediate pheromone activation. Our data further suggest that TRPC2−/− mice retain partial VNO function.
The vomeronasal organ detects pheromones, which are thought to activate TRPC2 channels on the surface of vomeronasal neurons. Using TRPC2 knockout mice, the authors show that urinary pheromones can also activate these neurons via calcium-activated chloride channels, suggesting a TRPC2-independent pathway for sensing pheromones.
In mammals, odorants and pheromones are detected by hundreds of odorant receptors (ORs) and vomeronasal receptors (V1Rs and V2Rs) expressed by sensory neurons that are respectively located in the main olfactory epithelium and in the vomeronasal organ. Even though these two olfactory systems are functionally and anatomically separate, their sensory neurons show a common mechanism of receptor gene regulation: each neuron expresses a single receptor gene from a single allele. The mechanisms underlying OR and VR gene expression remain unclear. Here we investigated if OR and V1R genes share common sequences in their promoter regions.
We conducted a comparative analysis of promoter regions of 39 mouse V1R genes and found motifs that are common to a large number of promoters. We then searched mouse OR promoter regions for motifs that resemble the ones found in the V1R promoters. We identified motifs that are present in both the V1R and OR promoter regions. Some of these motifs correspond to the known O/E like binding sites while others resemble binding sites for transcriptional repressors. We show that one of these motifs specifically interacts with proteins extracted from both nuclei from olfactory and vomeronasal neurons. Our study is the first to identify motifs that resemble binding sites for repressors in the promoters of OR and V1R genes. Analysis of these motifs and of the proteins that bind to these motifs should reveal important aspects of the mechanisms of OR/V1R gene regulation.
Scents, detected through both the main and vomeronasal olfactory systems, play a crucial role in regulating reproductive behaviour in many mammals. In laboratory mice, female preference for airborne urinary scents from males (detected through the main olfactory system) is learnt through association with scents detected through the vomeronasal system during contact with the scent source. This may reflect a more complex assessment of individual males than that implied by laboratory mouse studies in which individual variation has largely been eliminated. To test this, we assessed female preference between male and female urine using wild house mice with natural individual genetic variation in urinary identity signals. We confirm that females exhibit a general preference for male over female urine when able to contact urine scents. However, they are only attracted to airborne urinary volatiles from individual males whose urine they have previously contacted. Even females with a natural exposure to many individuals of both sexes fail to develop generalized attraction to airborne male scents. This implies that information gained through contact with a specific male's scent is essential to stimulate attraction, providing a new perspective on the cues and olfactory pathways involved in sex recognition and mate assessment in rodents.
scent communication; mate choice; sex recognition; individual recognition; sexual selection; Mus musculus domesticus
The G-protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) superfamily represents the largest protein family in the human genome. These proteins have a variety of physiological functions that give them well recognized roles in clinical medicine. In Xenopus tropicalis, a widely used animal model for physiology research, the repertoire of GPCRs may help link the GPCR evolutionary history in vertebrates from teleost fish to mammals.
We have identified 1452 GPCRs in the X. tropicalis genome. Phylogenetic analyses classified these receptors into the following seven families: Glutamate, Rhodopsin, Adhesion, Frizzled, Secretin, Taste 2 and Vomeronasal 1. Nearly 70% of X. tropicalis GPCRs are represented by the following three types of receptors thought to receive chemosensory information from the outside world: olfactory, vomeronasal 1 and vomeronasal 2 receptors.
X. tropicalis shares a more similar repertoire of GPCRs with mammals than it does with fish. An examination of the three major groups of receptors related to olfactory/pheromone detection shows that in X. tropicalis, these groups have undergone lineage specific expansion. A comparison of GPCRs in X. tropicalis, teleost fish and mammals reveals the GPCR evolutionary history in vertebrates.
Perception of chemical stimuli from the environment is essential to most animals; accordingly, they are equipped with a complex olfactory system capable of receiving a nearly unlimited number of odorous substances and pheromones. This enormous task is accomplished by olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs) arranged in several chemosensory compartments in the nose. The sensitive and selective responsiveness of OSNs to odorous molecules and pheromones is based on distinct receptors in their chemosensory membrane; consequently, olfactory receptors play a key role for a reliable recognition and an accurate processing of chemosensory information. They are therefore considered as key elements for an understanding of the principles and mechanisms underlying the sense of smell. The repertoire of olfactory receptors in mammals encompasses hundreds of different receptor types which are highly diverse and expressed in distinct subcompartments of the nose. Accordingly, they are categorized into several receptor families, including odorant receptors (ORs), vomeronasal receptors (V1Rs and V2Rs), trace amine-associated receptors (TAARs), formyl peptide receptors (FPRs), and the membrane guanylyl cyclase GC-D. This large and complex receptor repertoire is the basis for the enormous chemosensory capacity of the olfactory system.
olfaction; G protein-coupled receptor; odorant; pheromone; vomeronasal; trace amine-associated receptor; formyl peptide receptor; guanylyl cyclase
In teleost fishes that lack a vomeronasal organ, both main odorant receptors (ORs) and vomeronasal receptors family 2 (V2Rs) are expressed in the olfactory epithelium, and used for perception of water-soluble chemicals. In zebrafish, it is known that both ORs and V2Rs formed multigene families of about a hundred copies. Whereas the contribution of V2Rs in zebrafish to olfaction has been found to be substantially large, the composition and structure of the V2R gene family in other fishes are poorly known, compared with the OR gene family.
To understand the evolutionary dynamics of V2R genes in fishes, V2R sequences in zebrafish, medaka, fugu, and spotted green pufferfish were identified from their draft genome sequences. There were remarkable differences in the number of intact V2R genes in different species. Most V2R genes in these fishes were tightly clustered in one or two specific chromosomal regions. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that the fish V2R family could be subdivided into 16 subfamilies that had diverged before the separation of the four fishes. Genes in two subfamilies in zebrafish and another subfamily in medaka increased in their number independently, suggesting species-specific evolution in olfaction. Interestingly, the arrangements of V2R genes in the gene clusters were highly conserved among species in the subfamily level. A genomic region of tetrapods corresponding to the region in fishes that contains the V2R cluster was found to have no V2R gene in any species.
Our results have indicated that the evolutionary dynamics of fish V2Rs are characterized by rapid gene turnover and lineage-specific phylogenetic clustering. In addition, the present phylogenetic and comparative genome analyses have shown that the fish V2Rs have expanded after the divergence between teleost and tetrapod lineages. The present identification of the entire V2R repertoire in fishes would provide useful foundation to the future functional and evolutionary studies of fish V2R gene family.
Zonal organization is one of the characteristic features observed in both main and accessory olfactory systems. In the main olfactory system, most of the odorant receptors are classified into four groups according to their zonal expression patterns in the olfactory epithelium. Each group of odorant receptors is expressed by sensory neurons distributed within one of four circumscribed zones. Olfactory sensory neurons in a given zone of the epithelium project their axons to the glomeruli in a corresponding zone of the main olfactory bulb. Glomeruli in the same zone tend to represent similar odorant receptors having similar tuning specificity to odorants. Vomeronasal receptors (or pheromone receptors) are classified into two groups in the accessory olfactory system. Each group of receptors is expressed by vomeronasal sensory neurons in either the apical or basal zone of the vomeronasal epithelium. Sensory neurons in the apical zone project their axons to the rostral zone of the accessory olfactory bulb and form synaptic connections with mitral tufted cells belonging to the rostral zone. Signals originated from basal zone sensory neurons are sent to mitral tufted cells in the caudal zone of the accessory olfactory bulb. We discuss functional implications of the zonal organization in both main and accessory olfactory systems.
Background: The role of formyl peptide receptors (Fprs) in the vomeronasal system remains unclear.
Results: Agonist properties of vomeronasal Fprs differ extensively from those expressed in immune cells.
Conclusion: We observe neofunctionalization of vomeronasal Fprs and functional conservation of immune Fprs.
Significance: These findings provide new insight into the sensory function and evolution of Fprs.
The formyl peptide receptor (Fpr) family is well known for its contribution to immune defense against pathogens in human and rodent leukocytes. Recently, several structurally related members of these receptors were discovered in sensory neurons of the mouse vomeronasal organ (VNO), key detectors of pheromones and related semiochemicals. Although the biological role of vomeronasal Fprs is not yet clear, the known contribution of other Fprs to host immune defense suggested that they could contribute to vomeronasal pathogen sensing. Precise knowledge about the agonist properties of mouse Fprs is required to determine their function. We expressed all seven mouse and three human Fprs using an in vitro system and tested their activation with 32 selected compounds by conducting high throughput calcium measurements. We found an intriguing functional conservation between human and mouse immune Fprs that is most likely a consequence of closely similar biological constraints. By contrast, our data suggest a neofunctionalization of the vomeronasal Fprs. We show that the vomeronasal receptor mFpr-rs1 can be activated robustly by W-peptide and structural derivatives but not by other typical ligands of immune Fprs. mFpr-rs1 exhibits a stereo-selective preference for peptides containing d-amino acids. The same peptide motifs are contained in pathogenic microorganisms. Thus, the ligand profile of mFpr-rs1 is consistent with a role in vomeronasal pathogen sensing.
7-Helix Receptor; Calcium Imaging; Immunology; Molecular Pharmacology; Neuroscience; Olfaction
Size of the vomeronasal type 1 receptor (V1R) gene repertoire may be a good indicator for examining the relationship between animal genomes and their environmental niche specialization, especially the relationship between ecological factors and the molecular evolutionary history of the sensory system. Recently, Young et al. (Young JM, Massa HF, Hsu L, Trask BJ. 2009. Extreme variability among mammalian V1R gene families. Genome Res.) concluded that no single ecological factor could explain the extreme variability of the V1R gene repertoire in mammalian genomes. In contrast, we found a significant positive correlation between the size and percentage of intact V1R genes in 32 species that represent the phylogenetic diversity of terricolous mammals and two ecological factors: spatial activity and rhythm activity. Nest-living species possessed a greater number of intact V1R genes than open-living species, and nocturnal terricolous mammals tended to possess more intact V1R genes than did diurnal species. Moreover, our analysis reveals that the evolutionary mechanisms underlying these observations likely resulted from the rapid gene birth and accelerated amino acid substitutions in nest-living and nocturnal mammals, likely a functional requirement for exploiting narrow, dark environments. Taken together, these results reveal how adaptation to divergent circadian rhythms and spatial activity were manifested at the genomic scale. Size of the V1R gene family might have indicated how this gene family adapts to ecological factors.
V1R repertoire; spatial activity; rhythm activity; adaptive selection
A common feature of chemosensory systems is the involvement of G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) in the detection of environmental stimuli. Several lineages of GPCRs are involved in vertebrate olfaction, including trace amine-associated receptors, type 1 and 2 vomeronasal receptors and odorant receptors (ORs). Gene duplication and gene loss in different vertebrate lineages have lead to an enormous amount of variation in OR gene repertoire among species; some fish have fewer than 100 OR genes, while some mammals possess more than 1000. Fascinating features of the vertebrate olfactory system include allelic exclusion, where each olfactory neuron expresses only a single OR gene, and axonal guidance where neurons expressing the same receptor project axons to common glomerulae. By identifying homologous ORs in vertebrate and in non-vertebrate chordates, we hope to expose ancestral features of the chordate olfactory system that will help us to better understand the evolution of the receptors themselves and of the cellular components of the olfactory system.
We have identified 50 full-length and 11 partial ORs in Branchiostoma floridae. No ORs were identified in Ciona intestinalis. Phylogenetic analysis places the B. floridae OR genes in a monophyletic clade with the vertebrate ORs. The majority of OR genes in amphioxus are intronless and many are also tandemly arrayed in the genome. By exposing conserved amino acid motifs and testing the ability of those motifs to discriminate between ORs and non-OR GPCRs, we identified three OR-specific amino acid motifs common in cephalochordate, fish and mammalian and ORs.
Here, we show that amphioxus has orthologs of vertebrate ORs. This conclusion demonstrates that the receptors, and perhaps other components of vertebrate olfaction, evolved at least 550 million years ago. We have also identified highly conserved amino acid motifs that may be important for maintaining receptor conformation or regulating receptor activity. We anticipate that the identification of vertebrate OR orthologs in amphioxus will lead to an improved understanding of OR gene family evolution, OR gene function, and the mechanisms that control cell-specific expression, axonal guidance, signal transduction and signal integration.
While it is now established that sensory neurons in both the main olfactory epithelium and the vomeronasal organ may be activated by both general and pheromonal odorants, it remains unclear what initiates sampling by the VNO. Anterograde transport of wheat germ agglutinin-horseradish peroxidase was used to determine that adequate intranasal syringing with zinc sulfate interrupted all inputs to the main olfactory bulb but left intact those to the accessory olfactory bulb. Adult male treated mice were frankly anosmic when tested with pheromonal and non-pheromonal odors and failed to engage in aggressive behavior. Treated juvenile females failed to show puberty acceleration subsequent to exposure to bedding from adult males. Activation of the immediate early gene c-Fos and electro-vomeronasogram recording confirmed the integrity of the vomeronasal system in zinc sulfate treated mice. These results support the hypothesis that odor detection by the main olfactory epithelium is required to initiate sampling by the vomeronasal system.
vomeronasal organ; accessory olfactory bulb; main olfactory bulb; odor detection
Cell culture and the use of cell lines are routinely used in basic scientific research. It is therefore imperative for researchers to ensure the origin of the cell lines used and that they are routinely re-analysed for contamination and misidentification. Inter-species contamination is relatively frequent, and the most commonly used cell lines are of human, mouse and rat derivation. We have developed simple species specific primer assays based on genomic sequence differences in vomeronasal receptor gene family members to discriminate between human, mouse and rat DNA using standard agarose gel electrophoresis. Furthermore, these PCR assays are able to identify the species composition within an inter-species mixed population. This approach therefore provides a valuable tool to enable a rapid, simple and relatively inexpensive determination of the authentication and contamination of cell cultures.
PCR; Vomeronasal receptors; Species specificity; Genomic DNA