Peter Mombaerts, Director
In the mouse, the sense of smell (olfaction) is mediated by >1200 odorant receptors (ORs), the largest gene family in the genome. These ORs are G-protein coupled receptors. Every olfactory sensory neuron (OSN) in the main olfactory epithelium is thought to express just one OR gene, from one allele. Axons of OSNs that express the same OR coalesce into the same structures in the olfactory bulb, termed glomeruli, where they form synapses with second-order neurons in the olfactory pathway. It is now well established that ORs are intimately involved in axonal coalescence, but the mechanisms remain obscure.
The department has three main interests: odorant receptor gene choice, axonal wiring, and olfactory coding. Additional interests are vomeronasal receptors and pheromones, and cloning of mice by nuclear transfer.