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1.A.69 The Heteromeric Odorant Receptor Channel (HORC) Family

In insects, each olfactory sensory neuron expresses between one and three ligand-binding members of the olfactory receptor (OR) gene family, along with the highly conserved and broadly expressed Or83b co-receptor. The functional insect OR consists of a heteromeric complex of unknown stoichiometry but comprising at least one variable odorant-binding subunit and one constant Or83b family subunit. Insect ORs lack homology to G-protein-coupled chemosensory receptors in vertebrates and possess a distinct seven-transmembrane topology with the amino terminus located intracellularly. Sato et al. (2008) and Touhara (2009) showed that heteromeric insect ORs comprise a new class of ligand-activated non-selective cation channels. Heterologous cells expressing silkmoth, fruitfly or mosquito heteromeric OR complexes show extracellular Ca2+ influx and cation-non-selective ion conductance on stimulation with odorant or pheromone. Odour-evoked OR currents are independent of known G-protein-coupled second messenger pathways. The fast response kinetics and OR-subunit-dependent K+ ion selectivity of the insect OR complex support the hypothesis that the complex between OR and Or83b itself confers channel activity. The ligand (odorant)-gated ion channels formed by an insect OR complex seem to be the basis for a unique strategy that insects have acquired to respond to the olfactory environment (Sato et al., 2008). These odorant receptors have been reviewed (Wicher 2015).

Insect odorant receptors are composed of conventional odorant receptors (for example, Or22a), dimerized with a ubiquitously expressed chaperone protein, such as Or83b in Drosophila. Or83b has a structure akin to GPCRs, but has an inverted orientation in the plasma membrane. However, G proteins are expressed in insect olfactory receptor neurons, and olfactory perception is modified by mutations affecting the cAMP transduction pathway. Application of odorants to mammalian cells co-expressing Or22a and Or83b results in non-selective cation currents activated by means of ionotropic and metabolotropic pathways, and a subsequent increase in the intracellular Ca2+ concentration (Wicher et al., 2008). Expression of Or83b alone leads to functional ion channels not directly responding to odorants, but being directly activated by intracellular cAMP or cGMP. Insect odorant receptors thus form ligand-gated channels as well as complexes of odorant-sensing units and cyclic-nucleotide-activated non-selective cation channels. They, thereby, provide rapid and transient as well as sensitive and prolonged odorant signalling (Wicher et al., 2008). Their evolution, development, gene expression and funtion have been discussed by Yan et al. 2020.  

ORs have been identified from four insect orders (Coleoptera, Lepidoptera, Diptera, and Hymenoptera). Although all ORs share the same G-protein coupled receptor structure with seven transmembrane domains, they present poor sequence homologies within and between species. D. melanogaster is the only insect species where Ors have been extensively studied from expression pattern establishment to functional investigations (Jacquin-Joly and Merlin, 2004). One OR type is selectively expressed in a subtype of olfactory receptor neurons, and one olfactory neuron expresses only one type of OR. In addition, all olfactory neurons expressing one OR type converge to the same glomerulus in the antennal lobe. The olfactory mechanism, thus, appears to be conserved between insects and vertebrates (Jacquin-Joly and Merlin, 2004).

After the discovery of the complete repertoire of D. melanogaster Olfactory Receptors (ORs), candidate ORs have been identified from at least 12 insect species from four orders (Coleoptera, Lepidoptera, Diptera, and Hymenoptera). Although all ORs share the same G-protein coupled receptor structure with seven TMSs, they share poor sequence identity. One OR type is selectively expressed in a subtype of olfactory receptor neurons, and one olfactory neuron expresses only one type of OR. The olfactory mechanism, further, appears to be conserved between insects and vertebrates. The C-terminal region (TMSs4-7) of OR83b is involved in homodimer and heterodimer formation (with OR22a) which suggests why the C-termini of insect ORs are highly conserved. There may be two possible ion channel pathways, one formed by the TMS4-5 region with the intracellular pore-forming domain and the other formed by TM5-6 with the extracellular pore forming domain. Odorant receptors generally comprise the obligate co-receptor, Orco, and one of a family of highly divergent odorant 'tuning' receptors. The two subunits are thought to come together at some as-yet unknown stoichiometry to form a functional complex that is capable of both ionotropic and metabotropic signalling. Segments and residues involved in this interaction have been identified (Carraher et al. 2015).

Olfactory systems must detect and discriminate among an enormous variety of odorants. To contend with this challenge, diverse species have converged on a common strategy in which odorant identity is encoded through the combinatorial activation of large families of olfactory receptors, thus allowing a finite number of receptors to detect a vast chemical world. Del Mármol et al. 2021 offered structural and mechanistic insight into how an individual olfactory receptor can flexibly recognize diverse odorants. They found that the olfactory receptor MhOR5 from the jumping bristletail, Machilis hrabei, assembles as a homotetrameric odorant-gated ion channel with broad chemical tuning. Using cryo-EM, they elucidated the structure of MhOR5 in multiple gating states, alone and in complex with two of its agonists, the odorant eugenol and the insect repellent DEET. Both ligands are recognized through distributed hydrophobic interactions within the same geometrically simple binding pocket located in the transmembrane region of each subunit, suggesting a structural logic for the promiscuous chemical sensitivity of this receptor. Mutation of individual residues lining the binding pocket predictably altered the sensitivity of MhOR5 to eugenol and DEET and broadly reconfigured the receptor's tuning. Thus, diverse odorants share the same structural determinants for binding (Del Mármol et al. 2021).

The generalized reaction catalyzed by HORC is:

cations (in) cations (out)

References associated with 1.A.69 family:

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