Saturday, May 30, 2009

sniffing out danger

I very nearly overlooked this, as the titles of the paper and the N&V piece didn't really catch my attention, but there is a new sense of smell reported in the current issue of Nature, which is specific for pathogens and cell damage, so it's for sniffing out danger. Gone are the days when we thought we had the "normal" nose for food and Jacobson's organ for sexual attraction. Things have turned out much more complicated and may still take a while to unravel.

Formyl peptide receptor-like proteins are a novel family of vomeronasal chemosensors p574
Two different G-protein-coupled receptor families are known to mediate pheromonal cues in the mammalian vomeronasal organ. Here, members of a third family of receptors, the formyl peptide receptor-related gene family (FPRs), are shown to be expressed in the vomeronasal epithelium, with those cells expressing FPRs responding to ligands associated with disease and inflammation. This raises the possibility that FPRs detect the health status of individuals.
Stéphane Rivière, Ludivine Challet, Daniela Fluegge, Marc Spehr & Ivan Rodriguez
doi:10.1038/nature08029

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