Both ciliated and microvillous olfactory sensory neuron populations express large families of olfactory receptor genes. However,
individual neurons generally express only a single receptor gene according to the “one neuron–one receptor” rule. We report
here that crypt neurons, the third type of olfactory neurons in fish species, use an even more restricted mode of expression.
We recently identified a novel olfactory receptor family of 6 highly conserved G protein–coupled receptors, the v1r-like ora genes. We show now that a single member of this family, ora4 is expressed in nearly all crypt neurons, whereas the other 5 ora genes are not found in this cell type. Consistent with these findings, ora4 is never coexpressed with any of the remaining 5 ora genes. Furthermore, several lines of evidence indicate the absence of any other olfactory receptor families in crypt neurons.
These results suggest that the vast majority of the crypt neuron population may select one and the same olfactory receptor
gene, a “one cell type–one receptor” mode of expression. Such an expression pattern is familiar in the visual system, with
rhodopsin as the sole light receptor of rod photoreceptor cells, but unexpected in the sense of smell.