Article

Human olfaction: from genomic variation to phenotypic diversity

Department of Molecular Genetics and the Crown Human Genome Center, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot 76100, Israel.
Trends in Genetics (Impact Factor: 11.6). 05/2009; 25(4):178-84. DOI: 10.1016/j.tig.2009.02.002
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The sense of smell is a complex molecular device, encompassing several hundred olfactory receptor proteins (ORs). These receptors, encoded by the largest human gene superfamily, integrate odorant signals into an accurate 'odor image' in the brain. Widespread phenotypic diversity in human olfaction is, in part, attributable to prevalent genetic variation in OR genes, owing to copy number variation, deletion alleles and deleterious single nucleotide polymorphisms. The development of new genomic tools, including next generation sequencing and CNV assays, provides opportunities to characterize the genetic variations of this system. The advent of large-scale functional screens of expressed ORs, combined with genetic association studies, has the potential to link variations in ORs to human chemosensory phenotypes. This promises to provide a genome-wide view of human olfaction, resulting in a deeper understanding of personalized odor coding, with the potential to decipher flavor and fragrance preferences.

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