Genetic variation in just one single odorant receptor can affect an individual's experience of smells, as well as their sensitivity to them. Researchers screened ~400 human odorant receptors for response to 66 odours and combined these results with those from over 300 genetically varied subjects who were asked for their perceptions of the same compounds.
Leslie Vosshall and colleagues report in Nature that the receptor OR7D4 is selectively activated by androstenone, a steroid that some believe is a human pheromone, but not by the 64 other odours or by two solvents. Variations in the gene encoding OR7D4 affected how the subjects thought the androstenone smelt - some found it pleasant, others offensive, yet it remained odourless to others - and also how intense that smell was.
Leslie Vosshall (Rockefeller University, New York, NY, USA)
Abstract available online.
(C) Nature press release.
Message posted by: Trevor M. D'Souza