Although insects have proven to be valuable models for exploring the function, organization, and development of the olfactory system, the receptor molecules that bind odors have not been identified in any insect. We have developed a novel search algorithm, used it to search the Drosophila genomic sequence database, and identified a large multigene family encoding seven transmembrane domain proteins that are expressed in olfactory organs. We show that expression is restricted to subsets of olfactory receptor neurons (ORNs) for a number of these genes. Different members of the family initiate expression at different times during antennal development. Some of the genes are not expressed in a mutant of the Acj6 POU-domain transcription factor, a mutant in which a subset of ORNs show abnormal odorant specificities.
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