PLoS One 2017 25;12(9):e0185329. Epub 2017 Sep 25.
Department of Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami, Florida, United States of America.
The molecular receptive range (MRR) of a mammalian odorant receptor (OR) is the set of odorant structures that activate the OR, while the distribution of these odorant structures across odor space is the tuning breadth of the OR. Variation in tuning breadth is thought to be an important property of ORs, with the MRRs of these receptors varying from narrowly to broadly tuned. However, defining the tuning breadth of an OR is a technical challenge. For practical reasons, a screening panel that broadly covers odor space must be limited to sparse coverage of the many potential structures in that space. When screened with such a panel, ORs with different odorant specificities, but equal tuning breadths, might appear to have different tuning breadths due to chance. We hypothesized that ORs would maintain their tuning breadths across distinct odorant panels. We constructed a new screening panel that was broadly distributed across an estimated odor space and contained compounds distinct from previous panels. We used this new screening panel to test several murine ORs that were previously characterized as having different tuning breadths. ORs were expressed in Xenopus laevis oocytes and assayed by two-electrode voltage clamp electrophysiology. MOR256-17, an OR previously characterized as broadly tuned, responded to nine novel compounds from our new screening panel that were structurally diverse and broadly dispersed across an estimated odor space. MOR256-22, an OR previously characterized as narrowly tuned, responded to a single novel compound that was structurally similar to a previously known ligand for this receptor. MOR174-9, a well-characterized receptor with a narrowly tuned MRR, did not respond to any novel compounds in our new panel. These results support the idea that variation in tuning breadth among these three ORs is not an artifact of the screening protocol, but is an intrinsic property of the receptors.