Recent studies provide initial insights into molecular mechanisms of olfaction. The identification of an odorant-sensitive adenylate cyclase which responds to most odorants, affords a second messenger system following odorant interactions with receptors. Cyclic nucleotide- and odorant-gated ion channels have been demonstrated in olfactory cilia, providing signalling systems in place of or in addition to protein phosphorylation. A unique odorant-binding protein localized to nasal mucosa binds odorants in proportion to their odoriferous potencies. Molecular cloning of the isolated protein reveals it to be a member of a family of proteins that serve as carriers for small lipophilic molecules such as retinol and cholesterol. The odorant-binding protein is localized to lateral nasal glands whose secretions are atomized into the tip of the nose where the binding protein presumably interacts with odorants in the inspired air.
ASJC Scopus subject areas