One gene makes mice "not afraid" of cats

Humans have three color receptors, and there are 380 olfactory receptor-related genes, and mice even have more than 1,000 olfactory receptor genes. Moreover, ordinary smells such as coffee aromas and perfumes often activate many olfactory receptors. Poza said: "In the field of olfaction, there is a general consensus that the lack of an olfactory receptor gene will not have a serious impact on olfaction." Poza and his colleagues hope to test this hypothesis, they remove it by genetic A specific type of receptor gene. This type of receptor is a "tracking amine" receptor.

Poza's team found that the TAAR gene is extremely sensitive to amines. These amines are widespread in the body and are mainly found in decaying substances and metabolites. Like humans, mice instinctively avoid these unpleasant odorous amines.

Post-doctor Adam Povin of the Poza team (first author of this study) and master Rodrigue Pacifico, they bred mice lacking all 14 TAAR genes. It was found that these mice no longer dislike amines. Subsequently, the researchers only knocked out the TAAR4 gene, and the receptor encoded by the TAAR4 gene only responded to phenethylamine, which is a substance with a high content in the urine of carnivores. Interestingly, mice lacking TAAR4 do not respond to phenethylamine. In other words, they are no longer afraid of smelling cat urine, but do not respond to other amines. "It's so exciting to see such a selective response. Just knocking out an olfactory receptor gene in mice can change their behavior," Devin said.

So far, the TAAR gene has been found in all mammals discovered by the researchers, as well as humans. "In fact, so many animals retain the TAAR gene, which means that these genes are very important for our survival." Poza said.

We believe that the TARR gene can make animals very sensitive to amines. In addition, the role of the TAAR gene in humans may be to prevent us from rotting substances rich in amines. To be precise, the mechanism of action of the TAAR gene may be to send signals to specific areas of the brain, which are related to the animal's anti-avoidance behavior.

The Poza team recently discovered that neurons expressing the TAAR gene in the human nose are connected to specific areas of the olfactory bulb, which is the first stop in the brain to receive olfactory signals. This study shows that the TAAR gene causes a specific response to amines in mice, and humans are no exception. "We hope that this study will reveal specific brain circuits, which will lay the foundation for us to study the instinctive behavior of mammals, which will also help us study how neural circuits affect behavior." Poza said.

This research was funded by the following institutions: National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), The Whitehall Foundation, and American Brain Research Foundation (Brain Research Foundation, BRF).

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