A new mechanism and logic for mammalian olfaction

A huge congrats to Paul and Dan (and to everyone else in the lab whose hard work helped with the story) on their recent publication on a new family of chemoreceptors expressed in the mouse olfactory system. This paper, published last month in Cell, revises the canonical view of how mammalian olfaction works by identifying a new receptor family (called the MS4As) that do not encode seven-transmembrane-containing g-protein coupled receptors (like all other known mammalian chemoreceptor families) but instead encode proteins with only four transmembrane domains. These receptors, which respond to a wide variety of ethologically-relevant odors, including attractive food cues and aversive pheromones, are all co-expressed in the neurons in which they are expressed. These observations, in additional to being incredibly provocative, raise all sorts of interesting questions now being addressed in the lab: about the role of the MS4As in sensory perception; about the modes of coding and decoding of sensory information in the “necklace” system, the subsystem in which the MS4As are expressed; about the brain circuits attached to MS4A-expressing neurons in the nose; and about the behavioral consequences of activating the MS4A receptors. Lots of great stuff in the paper itself, which you can check out here! You can see coverage of these findings here, here and here.

And Lisa Stowers wrote a really nice (and generous!) preview of the article for Cell found here!