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

6 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

Funding Information:
Received May 11, 2020; revised July 23, 2020; accepted Aug. 9, 2020. Author contributions: T.S.M., D.Y.H., and P.B. designed research; T.S.M., N.K., Y.A., and M.A. performed research; T.S.M. and P.B. analyzed data; T.S.M. wrote the paper; D.Y.H. and P.B. edited the paper. This work was supported by National Institutes of Health R01DC014423; University of Kentucky Vice President for Research IRC program award to T.S.M. T.S.M. has an equity interest in a company based on technologies used to measure responses to odors. The remaining authors declare no competing financial interests. Correspondence should be addressed to Timothy S. McClintock at mcclint@uky.edu. https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1144-20.2020 Copyright © 2020 the authors

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2020 the authors


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

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (all)


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