The mammalian olfactory system detects a plethora of environmental chemicals that are perceived as odors or stimulate instinctive behaviors. Studies using odorant receptor (OR) genes have provided insight into the molecular and organizational strategies underlying olfaction in mice. One important unanswered question, however, is whether these strategies are conserved in primates. To explore this question, we examined the macaque, a higher primate phylogenetically close to humans. Here we report that the organization of sensory inputs in the macaque nose resembles that in mouse in some respects, but not others. As in mouse, neurons with different ORs are interspersed in the macaque nose, and there are spatial zones that differ in their complement of ORs and extend axons to different domains in the olfactory bulb of the brain. However, whereas the mouse has multiple discrete band-like zones, the macaque appears to have only two broad zones. It is unclear whether the organization of OR inputs in a rodent/primate common ancestor degenerated in primates or, alternatively became more sophisticated in rodents. The mouse nose has an additional small family of chemosensory receptors, called trace amine-associated receptors (TAARs), which may detect social cues. Here we find that TAARs are also expressed in the macaque nose, suggesting that TAARs may also play a role in human olfactory perception. We further find that one human TAAR responds to rotten fish, suggesting a possible role as a sentinel to discourage ingestion of food harboring pathogenic microorganisms.
- Odorant receptor
- Trace-amine associated receptor
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