Olfactory transduction begins with the binding of an odorous molecule to a
protein receptor-odorant receptor-on the cell surface of olfactory neuron.
Odorant receptors are encoded by a large gene family belonging to the super
family of G-protein-coupled, seven-transmembrane-domain receptors. Since th
e identification of the receptor gene family in 1991, a considerable amount
of progress has been made in the study of odorant receptors, including asp
ects of spatial and temporal expression pattern, the genomic organization o
f the receptor genes, regulation of expression, and receptor function. Thes
e studies are of critical importance in understanding how the olfactory sys
tem recognizes and distinguishes thousands of odors.