Evolution of Chemosensory Receptor Genes in Primates and Other Mammals

  • Yoshihito Niimura
Part of the Primatology Monographs book series (PrimMono)


Chemosensory receptors for detecting chemical molecules in the environment are present in essentially all motile organisms ranging from bacteria to mammals. Mammals have at least seven different gene families of chemosensory receptors: olfactory receptors (ORs), vomeronasal (pheromone) receptors type 1 and 2, trace amine-associated receptors, formyl peptide receptors, and taste receptors type 1 and 2. Among them, OR genes far outnumber the other genes, forming the largest multigene family in vertebrates. Recent bioinformatic analyses using the whole genome sequences have revealed that the numbers of functional chemosensory receptor genes and pseudogenes differ greatly among different species. Many mammalian species such as mice or rats have approximately 1,000 functional OR genes, while higher primates including hominoids (humans, chimpanzees, and orangutans), Old World monkeys (OWMs; macaques), and New World monkeys (marmosets) show smaller numbers (<400) of functional OR genes and larger fractions (37–52%) of pseudogenes. Moreover, almost all the vomeronasal receptor genes in hominoids and OWMs are apparently nonfunctional. Extensive phylogenetic analyses showed that OR and other chemosensory receptor gene families are characterized by dynamic gains and losses of genes. It appears that the repertoires of chemosensory receptor genes in each species are largely determined by the needs from each species living environment, and the reduction of repertoire sizes in primates would reflect their reliance on vision rather than olfaction.


Tree Shrew Much Recent Common Ancestor Formyl Peptide Receptor Accessory Olfactory Bulb Chemosensory Receptor 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Copy number variation


Formyl peptide receptor


G-protein-coupled receptor


Main olfactory epithelium


Main olfactory system


Most recent common ancestor


New World monkey


Olfactory receptor


Old World monkey


Single nucleotide polymorphism


Trace amine-associated receptor


Vomeronasal organ


Vomeronasal system


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Copyright information

© Springer 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Medical Research InstituteTokyo Medical and Dental UniversityTokyoJapan

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