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Clusters of olfactory receptor (OR) genes are found on most human chromosomes. They are one of the largest mammalian multigene families. Here, we report a systematic study of polymorphism of OR genes belonging to the largest fully sequenced OR cluster. The cluster contains 36 OR genes, of which two belong to the vomeronasal 1 (V1-OR) family. The cluster is divided into a major and a minor region at the telomeric end of the HLA complex on chromosome 6. These OR genes could be involved in MHC-related mate preferences. The polymorphism screen was carried out with 13 genes from the HLA-linked OR cluster and three genes from chromosomes 7, 17, and 19 as controls. Ten human cell lines, representing 18 different chromosome 6s, were analyzed. They were from various ethnic origins and exhibited different HLA haplotypes. All OR genes tested, including those not linked to the HLA complex, were polymorphic. These polymorphisms were dispersed along the coding region and resulted in up to seven alleles for a given OR gene. Three polymorphisms resulted either in stop codons (genes hs6M1-4P, hs6M1-17) or in a 16-bp deletion (gene hs6M1-19P), possibly leading to lack of ligand recognition by the respective receptors in the cell line donors. In total, 13 HLA-linked OR haplotypes could be defined. Therefore, allelic variation appears to be a general feature of human OR genes.


A Ehlers, S Beck, S A Forbes, J Trowsdale, A Volz, R Younger, A Ziegler. MHC-linked olfactory receptor loci exhibit polymorphism and contribute to extended HLA/OR-haplotypes. Genome research. 2000 Dec;10(12):1968-78

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PMID: 11116091

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