Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Why King Kong failed to impress: Humans, apes use odor-detecting receptors differently

Date:
December 9, 2009
Source:
Duke University Medical Center
Summary:
Humans have the same receptors for detecting odors related to sex as do other primates. But each species uses them in different ways, stemming from the way the genes for these receptors have evolved over time, according to researchers.

New research shows that humans and other primates use the same receptors for detecting odors related to sex in different ways.
Credit: iStockphoto/Larissa Lognay

Humans have the same receptors for detecting odors related to sex as do other primates. But each species uses them in different ways, stemming from the way the genes for these receptors have evolved over time, according to Duke University researchers.

Varying sensitivity to these sex-steroid odors may play a role in mate selection -- and perhaps prevent cross-species couplings, the researchers speculate.

The researchers analyzed the sequences and functions of the gene for the odorant receptor OR7D4 in terms of perceiving two steroid molecules related to testosterone, androstenone and androstadienone. The study did not try to examine how the receptors and odor perception might relate to behavior.

"There's variation in sensitivity of the odorant receptor from this gene (all primates) have," said Hiroaki Matsunami, associate professor of molecular genetics and microbiology and neurobiology at Duke University Medical Center. "Maybe these molecules operate in the process of reproduction. The fact that there is variation fits with this theory. Reproduction demands that an animal avoid attraction to other species, so variation in the receptor's sensitivity to these odors may prevent any cross-species attraction."

The study was published online Dec. 3 in the Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Animals rely on olfactory signals to make all sorts of decisions about other animals, particularly in reproduction, said Christine Drea, Ph.D., an associate professor of Biology at Duke who was not involved with this study. "Beyond identifying members of the same species, odors help identify kin or nonkin, members of the opposite sex, even whether individuals are fertile or genetically appropriate as mates. How they do so is still largely unknown," she said. "By deciphering evolutionary changes in receptor function across species, Dr. Matsunami and his colleagues have brought us another step closer to unraveling the mysteries of olfactory signaling."

The odorant receptor gene, which the paper traces back to the mongoose lemur, evolved differently within the various primate species. Human receptors were found to be most closely related to chimps and bonobo, as opposed to gorillas and other primates.

The findings support the evidence that primates have a common ancestor, but we are very different now. "One of the differences is in how well we are able to sense odors, which is exemplified by changes in the function of this odor receptor," Matsunami said.

Ultimately, the work will aim at discerning how smelling these chemicals might affect human social and sexual behavior. "We will begin working with a collaborator to examine chimpanzee behavior with regard to odor perception," Matsunami said.

However, the sense of smell also can vary from animal to animal and person to person, because of combinations of a number of odor receptors.

"The sex-steroid related odors act as pheromones in pigs," Matsunami said. "Pigs that are ovulating and that are exposed to the pheromones assume a mating posture. It's debatable whether these chemicals act similarly in humans. But there is evidence that smelling these odors can affect the mood and physiological state of both men and women. We have a lot more studying to do, but this finding and others in the future will create a picture of how smell may relate to sexual reproduction."

Matsunami added that there are likely other receptors and receptor variants that may also play roles in how these two chemicals are perceived. Because there are about 400 specific smell receptors and humans can detect more than 10,000 different odors, different combinations of receptor genes and variants must be involved in perceiving each odor, Matsunami said.

Other authors include Hanyi Zhuang and Ming-Shan Chien of the Duke Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology.

The research was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the Human Frontier Science Program, and a National Institutes of Health National Research Service Award Predoctoral Fellowship.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Duke University Medical Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Hanyi Zhuang, Ming-Shan Chien, and Hiroaki Matsunami. Dynamic functional evolution of an odorant receptor for sex-steroid-derived odors in primates. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2009; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0808378106

Cite This Page:

Duke University Medical Center. "Why King Kong failed to impress: Humans, apes use odor-detecting receptors differently." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 December 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091208153153.htm>.
Duke University Medical Center. (2009, December 9). Why King Kong failed to impress: Humans, apes use odor-detecting receptors differently. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091208153153.htm
Duke University Medical Center. "Why King Kong failed to impress: Humans, apes use odor-detecting receptors differently." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091208153153.htm (accessed August 20, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Possible Ebola Patient in Isolation at California Hospital

Possible Ebola Patient in Isolation at California Hospital

Reuters - US Online Video (Aug. 20, 2014) A patient who may have been exposed to the Ebola virus is in isolation at the Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento Medical Center. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Flower Power! Dandelions Make Car Tires?

Flower Power! Dandelions Make Car Tires?

Reuters - Business Video Online (Aug. 20, 2014) Forget rolling on rubber, could car drivers soon be traveling on tires made from dandelions? Teams of scientists are racing to breed a type of the yellow flower whose taproot has a milky fluid with tire-grade rubber particles in it. As Joanna Partridge reports, global tire makers are investing millions in research into a new tire source. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Unsustainable Elephant Poaching Killed 100K In 3 Years

Unsustainable Elephant Poaching Killed 100K In 3 Years

Newsy (Aug. 20, 2014) Poachers have killed 100,000 elephants between 2010 and 2012, as the booming ivory trade takes its toll on the animals in Africa. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Awesome New Camouflage Sheet Was Inspired By Octopus Skin

Awesome New Camouflage Sheet Was Inspired By Octopus Skin

Newsy (Aug. 19, 2014) Scientists have developed a new device that mimics the way octopuses blend in with their surroundings to hide from dangerous predators. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins