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Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) have uncovered the genetics behind two distinct types of olfactory sensory neurons; the so-called class I olfactory neurons, conserved from aquatic to terrestrial animals, and class II olfactory neurons that only terrestrial animals possess. But how does the olfactory sensory neuron know which class of OR to express?
"Decision between two classes of ORs is critical to both the anatomical and functional organization of olfactory system," explains Prof. Junji Hirota from the Tokyo Institute of Technology. "However, while we have known that two classes of ORs exist for more than 20 years, the mechanisms that regulate the OR class choice have remained an open question." To understand the OR selection process, he and a group of investigators set out to unveil the factors that determine the expression of the two classes of ORs.
Researchers - Time - Bcl11b - Transcription - Factor
The researchers discovered for the first time that Bcl11b, a transcription factor, determines which class of OR gene is expressed in olfactory neurons. In the absence of Bcl11b, olfactory neurons are fated to class I. But the fate can be switched to class II in the presence of Bcl11b. This also corroborates the idea that class I OR is the default OR, which undergoes a transcriptional...
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