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Molecular insight into olfaction

European scientists investigated the molecular mechanisms responsible for olfaction. Their findings point to novel players in the development of the olfactory system.
Molecular insight into olfaction
Olfaction commences with the detection of odorant molecules in the environment by olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs). OSNs are located in the olfactory epithelium in the nasal cavity and transmit signals to the brain through a process known as olfactory transduction.

OSNs express various proteins of the stomatin family (stomatin, STOML-2, STOML-3) but their physiological role remains unclear. To address this issue, scientists on the EU-funded OLF-STOM (Stomatin proteins and olfactory transduction) project investigated the potential role of these proteins in regulating the olfactory transduction process. For this purpose, they generated several mouse models including the single STOML-3 knock out (STOML-3 KO), stomatin, STOML-1 and STOML-3 triple knock out (TKO).

As a first step, they investigated the expression of the different members of the stomatin family in the olfactory epithelium. They found that stomatin was mainly expressed on microvilli of supporting cells. They also observed a reduction in OSNs in TKO mice while the lack of only STOML-3 did not affect OSN density.

Further gene expression analysis showed that the lack of stomatin proteins did not affect the expression of the molecular components of the olfactory transduction machinery. From a functional perspective, the lack of stomatin proteins did not affect odour adaptation or the sensitivity of the olfactory epithelium.

Collectively, the activities of the OLF-STOM study underscored the importance of stomatin proteins in the development of the olfactory epithelium. This knowledge could be extrapolated to explain the function of other systems such as skin mechanoreceptors. Long term, it could also help to identify possible targets for the treatment of human conditions such as pain syndromes.

Related information


Life Sciences


Olfaction, olfactory sensory neurons, stomatin, epithelium, STOML-3
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