Olfactory receptors constitute a huge family of structurally related G protein-coupled receptors, with up to a thousand members expected. We have shown previously that genes belonging to this family were expressed in the male germ line from both dog and human. The functional significance of this unexpected site of expression was further investigated in the present study. We demonstrate that a few dog genes representative of various subfamilies of olfactory receptors are expressed essentially in testis, with little or no expression in olfactory mucosa. Other randomly selected members of the family show the expected site of expression, restricted to the olfactory system. Antibodies were generated against the deduced amino acid sequence of the most abundantly expressed olfactory receptor gene in dog testis. The purified serum was able to detect the gene product (DTMT receptor) in late round and elongated spermatids, as well as in the cytoplasmic droplet that characterizes the maturation of dog sperm cells, and on the tail midpiece of mature spermatozoa. Western blotting further confirmed the presence of a 40-kD immunoreactive protein in the membrane of mature sperm cells. Altogether , these results demonstrate that the main expression site of a subset of the large olfactory receptor gene family is not olfactory mucosa but testis. This expression correlates with the presence of the corresponding protein during sperm cell maturation, and on mature sperm cells. The pattern of expression is consistent with a role as sensor for unidentified chemicals possibly involved in the control of mammalian sperm maturation, migration, and/or fertilization.

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