Molecular mechanisms of smell and other chemical senses
We are interested in the molecular mechanisms underlying chemosensation (smell, taste and pheromone) in mammals. We use molecular biology, genome information and genetics in our study of this phenomenon.
In olfaction, the detection of volatile odorants is mediated by olfactory sensory neurons in the olfactory epithelium of the nose. Odorants are detected by about 1000 different types of odorant receptors that are encoded by a multigene family. Each olfactory sensory neuron expresses only one receptor type out of 1000 receptors. We are interested in understanding olfaction by investigating which odorants activate which receptors, how odorant receptor polymorphisms affect odor perception, and how odorant receptors are evolved.
We are also interested in the pheromone sensing system. Pheromones are chemicals that are released from animals and induce behaviors such as mating or aggression, or cause hormonal changes in members of the same species. The detection of pheromones is mediated primarily by a second olfactory sense organ, called the vomeronasal organ. Vomeronasal neurons express distinct classes of receptors called vomeronasal receptors. Pheromone molecules may induce their effects by activating some of these receptors, which ultimately affect particular regions of the brain.