What Makes a Discovery Successful? The Story of Linda Buck and the Olfactory Receptors

  title={What Makes a Discovery Successful? The Story of Linda Buck and the Olfactory Receptors},
  author={Ann-Sophie Barwich},
  • A. Barwich
  • Published 14 May 2020
  • Biology, Medicine
  • Cell
In 1991, Buck and Axel published a landmark study in Cell for work that was awarded the 2004 Nobel Prize. The identification of the olfactory receptors as the largest family of GPCRs catapulted olfaction into mainstream neurobiology. This BenchMark revisits Buck's experimental innovation and its surprising success at the time. 
Fishing for Genes: How the Largest Gene Family in the Mammalian Genome was Found (and Why Idiosyncrasy in Exploration Matters)
Abstract In 1991, Linda Buck and Richard Axel identified the multigene family expressing odor receptors. Their discovery transformed research on olfaction overnight, and Buck and Axel were awarded
Imaging the Living Brain: An argument for ruthless reductionism from olfactory neurobiology.
  • A. Barwich
  • Medicine
    Journal of theoretical biology
  • 2020
It is shown that molecular and cellular mechanisms must constitute the material foundation to derive better theories and models for neuroscience, and the recent application of a new real-time molecular imaging technique (SCAPE microscopy) to mixture coding in olfaction is explored.
Odor coding in the mammalian olfactory epithelium
These findings mark the start of a new era in the study of odorant-receptor interactions and add a new level of complexity to odor coding in mammals.


The molecular basis of odor recognition
Odorant receptors appear to activate a cyclic nucleotide enzyme cascade, including a GTP-binding protein, analogous with the processes of hormone, neurotransmitter and visual reception.
The search for odorant receptors
In March 1988, I embarked on a search for odorant receptors, intrigued by the possibility that gene rearrangement or gene conversion might be involved in the generation of a varied set of odorants or regulate their expression, as with antigen receptors in the immune system.
A Spatial Map of Olfactory Receptor Expression in the Drosophila Antenna
A novel family of seven transmembrane domain proteins, encoded by 100 to 200 genes, that is likely to represent the family of Drosophila odorant receptors are identified and may ultimately afford a system to understand the mechanistic link between odor recognition and behavior.
How the olfactory system makes sense of scents
Growing interest in the detection of diverse compounds at single-molecule levels has made the olfactory system an important system for biological modelling.
A Novel Family of Divergent Seven-Transmembrane Proteins Candidate Odorant Receptors in Drosophila
A novel search algorithm is developed, used to search the Drosophila genomic sequence database, and it is shown that expression is restricted to subsets of olfactory receptor neurons (ORNs) for a number of these genes.
Odorant-sensitive adenylate cyclase may mediate olfactory reception
The results suggest a role for cyclic nucleotides in olfactory transduction13,20–22, and point to a molecular analogy between olfaction and visual15,16, hormone17,18 and neurotransmitter19 reception, and reveal new ways to identify and isolate Olfactory receptor proteins.
A novel multigene family may encode odorant receptors: A molecular basis for odor recognition
This work has cloned and characterized 18 different members of an extremely large multigene family that encodes seven transmembrane domain proteins whose expression is restricted to the olfactory epithelium and is likely to encode a diverse family of odorant receptors.
Golf: an olfactory neuron specific-G protein involved in odorant signal transduction.
Evidence is presented suggesting that this G protein, termed Golf, mediates olfaction, and the expression of Golf alpha in S49 cyc- kin- cells, a line deficient in endogenous stimulatory G proteins, demonstrates its capacity to stimulate adenylate cyclase in a heterologous system.
Activation of the sensory current in salamander olfactory receptor neurons depends on a G protein-mediated cAMP second messenger system
The long latency seen in the odor response seems to be mainly due to the loading of the G protein and secondarily to the requirement for cAMP accumulation, the main source of the response decay appears to be cyclic nucleotide hydrolysis.
Expression of members of the putative olfactory receptor gene family in mammalian germ cells
The finding suggests that a common receptor gene family encodes olfactory receptors and sperm cell receptors that could be involved in chemotaxis during fertilization.