Functional expression of a mammalian olfactory receptor in Caenorhabditis elegans

Nicoletta Milani, Ernesto Guarin, Eduard Renfer, Patrick Nef, Pedro J. Andres-Barquin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The olfactory system in both vertebrates and invertebrates can recognize and distinguish thousands of chemical signals. Olfactory receptors are responsible for the early molecular events in the detection of volatile compounds and the perception of smell. Recently, candidate olfactory receptor genes have been identified in several organisms, but their characterization is far from been completed due to the difficulty to functionally express them in heterologous systems. To circumvent such difficulty, we expressed a mammalian olfactory gene, rat 17, in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. We generated transgenic worms expressing 17 in AWA or AWB chemosensory neurons and performed behavioural assays using different concentrations of the rat 17 receptor agonist octanal. Pure octanal was repellent for wild-type worms whereas a 1:10 dilution was attractant. Expression of 17 in AWB neurons counteracted the volatile attraction to diluted octanal observed in control wild-type worms. Furthermore, expression of 17 in AWA neurons counteracted the volatile avoidance to pure octanal observed in wild-type worms. These results indicate that it is possible to functionally express mammalian olfactory receptors in C. elegans providing a research tool to efficiently search for specific olfactory receptor ligands and to extend our understanding of the molecular basis of olfaction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2515-2520
Number of pages6
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - Dec 20 2002


  • Chemosensory neurons
  • G protein-coupled receptor
  • Olfaction
  • Olfactory receptor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Functional expression of a mammalian olfactory receptor in Caenorhabditis elegans'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this