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Olfactory receptor (OR) genes constitute the molecular basis for the sense of …


Biology Articles » Zoology » Primatology » Loss of Olfactory Receptor Genes Coincides with the Acquisition of Full Trichromatic Vision in Primates

Abstract
- Loss of Olfactory Receptor Genes Coincides with the Acquisition of Full Trichromatic Vision in Primates

Loss of Olfactory Receptor Genes Coincides with the Acquisition of Full Trichromatic Vision in Primates

Yoav Gilad1,2*, Victor Wiebe1, Molly Przeworski1, Doron Lancet2, Svante Pääbo1

1 Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany, 2 Department of Molecular Genetics, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel

Academic Editor: David Hillis, University of Texas at Austin

PLoS Biol 2(1): e5. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License.

Abbreviations: FET, Fisher's exact test; OR, olfactory receptor; ORF, open reading frame; OWM, Old World monkey; NWM, New World monkey

* To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: gilad@eva.mpg.de

 

Abstract

Olfactory receptor (OR) genes constitute the molecular basis for the sense of smell and are encoded by the largest gene family in mammalian genomes. Previous studies suggested that the proportion of pseudogenes in the OR gene family is significantly larger in humans than in other apes and significantly larger in apes than in the mouse. To investigate the process of degeneration of the olfactory repertoire in primates, we estimated the proportion of OR pseudogenes in 19 primate species by surveying randomly chosen subsets of 100 OR genes from each species. We find that apes, Old World monkeys and one New World monkey, the howler monkey, have a significantly higher proportion of OR pseudogenes than do other New World monkeys or the lemur (a prosimian). Strikingly, the howler monkey is also the only New World monkey to possess full trichromatic vision, along with Old World monkeys and apes. Our findings suggest that the deterioration of the olfactory repertoire occurred concomitant with the acquisition of full trichromatic color vision in primates.

 


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