Encoding the odor of cigarette smoke

Timothy S. McClintock, Naazneen Khan, Yelena Alimova, Madeline Aulisio, Dong Y. Han, Patrick Breheny

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The encoding of odors is believed to begin as a combinatorial code consisting of distinct patterns of responses from odorant receptors (ORs), trace-amine associated receptors (TAARs), or both. To determine how specific response patterns arise requires detecting patterns in vivo and understanding how the components of an odor, which are nearly always mixtures of odorants, give rise to parts of the pattern. Cigarette smoke, a common and clinically relevant odor consisting of .400 odorants, evokes responses from 144 ORs and 3 TAARs in freely behaving male and female mice, the first example of in vivo responses of both ORs and TAARs to an odor. As expected, a simplified artificial mimic of cigarette smoke odor tested at low concentration to identify highly sensitive receptors evokes responses from four ORs, all also responsive to cigarette smoke. Human subjects of either sex identify 1-pentanethiol as the odorant most critical for perception of the artificial mimic; and in mice the OR response patterns to these two odors are significantly similar. Fifty-eight ORs respond to the headspace above 25% 1-pentanethiol, including 9 ORs responsive to cigarette smoke. The response patterns to both cigarette smoke and 1-pentanethiol have strongly responsive ORs spread widely across OR sequence diversity, consistent with most other combinatorial codes previously measured in vivo. The encoding of cigarette smoke is accomplished by a broad receptor response pattern, and 1-pentanethiol is responsible for a small subset of the responsive ORs in this combinatorial code.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7043-7053
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number37
StatePublished - Sep 9 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2020 the authors


  • GPCR
  • Olfaction
  • Perception
  • Physiology
  • Sensory
  • Smoking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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