High-affinity olfactory receptor for the death-associated odor cadaverine

Ashiq Hussain, Luis Miguel Rodrigues Saraiva, David M. Ferrero, Gaurav Ahuja, Venkatesh S. Krishna, Stephen D. Liberles, Sigrun I. Korsching

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

82 Citations (Scopus)


Carrion smell is strongly repugnant to humans and triggers distinct innate behaviors in many other species. This smell is mainly carried by two small aliphatic diamines, putrescine and cadaverine, which are generated by bacterial decarboxylation of the basic amino acids ornithine and lysine. Depending on the species, these diamines may also serve as feeding attractants, oviposition attractants, or social cues. Behavioral responses to diamines have not been investigated in zebrafish, a powerful model system for studying vertebrate olfaction. Furthermore, olfactory receptors that detect cadaverine and putrescine have not been identified in any species so far. Here, we show robust olfactory-mediated avoidance behavior of zebrafish to cadaverine and related diamines, and concomitant activation of sparse olfactory sensory neurons by these diamines. The large majority of neurons activated by low concentrations of cadaverine expresses a particular olfactory receptor, trace amineassociated receptor 13c (TAAR13c). Structure-activity analysis indicates TAAR13c to be a general diamine sensor, with pronounced selectivity for odd chains of medium length. This receptor can also be activated by decaying fish extracts, a physiologically relevant source of diamines. The identification of a sensitive zebrafish olfactory receptor for these diamines provides a molecular basis for studying neural circuits connecting sensation, perception, and innate behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19579-19584
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number48
Publication statusPublished - 26 Nov 2013
Externally publishedYes



  • Aversion
  • Danio rerio
  • Heterologous expression
  • Polyamines

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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