Researchers at the Monell Center and collaborators have identified a protein that is critical to the ability of mammals to smell. Mice engineered to be lacking the Ggamma13 protein in their olfactory receptors were functionally anosmic – unable to smell. The findings may lend insight into the underlying causes of certain smell disorders in humans.
"Without Ggamma13, the mice cannot smell," said senior author Liquan Huang, PhD, a molecular biologist at Monell. "This raises the possibility that mutations in the Ggamma13 gene may contribute to certain forms of human anosmia and that gene sequencing may be able to predict some instances of smell loss."
Odor molecules entering the nose are sensed by a family of olfactory receptors. Inside the receptor cells, a complex cascade of molecular interactions converts information to ultimately generate an electrical signal. This signal, called an action potential, is what tells the brain that an odor has been detected.
To date, the identities of some of the intracellular molecules that convert odor information into an action potential remain a mystery. Suspecting that a protein called Ggamma13 might be involved, the research team engineered mice to be lacking this protein and then tested how the 'knockout' mice responded to odors.
Importantly, because the Ggamma13 protein plays critical roles in other parts of the body, the Ggamma13 'knockout' was confined exclusively to smell receptor cells. This specificity allowed the researchers to characterize the effect of Ggamma13 deletion on the olfactory system without interference from changes in other tissues.
Both behavioral and physiological experiments revealed that the Ggamma13 knockout mice did not respond to odors. The findings were published in the Journal of Neuroscience.
In behavioral tests, control mice with an intact sense of smell were able to detect and retrieve a piece of buried food in less than 30 seconds. However, mice lacking Ggamma13 in their olfactory cells required more than 8 minutes to perform the same task. Both sets of mice were able to quickly locate the food when it was placed in plain sight.
A second set of experiments measured olfactory function on a physiological level. Using olfactory tissue from knockout and control mice, the researchers recorded electrical responses to 15 different odors. Responses from the Ggamma13 knockout mice were greatly reduced, suggesting that the olfactory receptors of these mice were unable to translate odor signals into an electrical response.
Together, the findings demonstrate that Ggamma13 is essential for mammals to smell odors and extend the current understanding of how olfactory receptor cells communicate information about odors to the brain. Future studies will seek to identify how Ggamma13 interacts with other molecules within the olfactory receptor.
"Loss of olfactory function can greatly reduce quality of life," said Huang. "Our findings demonstrate the significant consequences when just one molecular component of this complex system does not function properly."
Also contributing to the research were lead author Feng Li, Samusudeen Ponissery-Saidu, Karen Yee, Hong Wang, Naoko Iguchi, and Johannes Reisert from Monell; Meng-Ling Chen and Genhua Zhang from the Changshu Institute of Technology in China; and Ping Jiang from the Wistar Institute. The research was supported by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, part of the National Institutes of Health, under award numbers R01DC007487, R01DC009613, and DC010012, and core facility grant P30 DC011735. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. Additional funding came from National Science Foundation Equipment Grant DBI-0216310 and National Natural Science Foundation of China Grant 31228008.
The Monell Chemical Senses Center is an independent nonprofit basic research institute based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Now celebrating its 45th anniversary, Monell advances scientific understanding of the mechanisms and functions of taste and smell to benefit human health and well-being. Using an interdisciplinary approach, scientists collaborate in program areas of sensation and perception; neuroscience and molecular biology; environmental and occupational health; nutrition and appetite; health and well-being; development, aging and regeneration; and chemical ecology and communication. For more information about Monell, visit http://www.monell.org.
Leslie Stein | EurekAlert!
The birth of a new protein
20.10.2017 | University of Arizona
Building New Moss Factories
20.10.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau
University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event
On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...
Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.
Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....
Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).
When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...
Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.
How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.
It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...
17.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
20.10.2017 | Information Technology
20.10.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.10.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research