Center for Biotechnology and Genomics at Texas Tech University
Biomedical research related to olfactory receptors (OR) and their role in olfaction came into prominence after the discovery of these receptors in the early nineteen nineties and the subsequent Nobel Prize award to the discoverers of ORs in 2004. OR genes constitute overwhelmingly, the largest gene families in the human other mammalian genomes. Olfactory receptors have remarkably complex interactions with odorants. A few hundred olfactory receptors can discriminate between several thousand odorants and complex odors resulting in eliciting a sensory response. Research into olfactory receptor structure and function, which comes under the umbrella of neuroscience, is stymied. Olfactory receptors are Class A G(TPbinding) Protein Receptors (GPCRs) that line the nasal passages, each receptor associated with a single olfactory neuron. These membrane proteins, as one would expect are difficult to express and consequently, functionally assess. Functional analysis of ORs is thus, significantly slowed down. No experimentally determined structure of an OR is currently available. Computational structural studies though rigorous are speculative. Because of the vastness and complexity of this OR superfamily, the research that elucidates the structural and functional aspects of these genes will help clarify and rationalize the first in a multi-step process leading to a better understanding of olfaction, educating and eliciting a greater interest in this domain of research. Additionally, these efforts will aid in serving as a models to enhance our understanding of other GPCRs and membrane proteins. This methods collection will highlight methods including computational modeling, genomics analysis and current functional assays to study olfactory receptors.