The recently sequenced genomes of several vertebrate species revealed large differences between the odorant receptor (OR) repertoires of even closely related species. These differences are a consequence of frequent gene duplications and subsequent mutations of duplicated genes. The same mechanisms are at work within a species, and different human genomes therefore show an unparalleled variability in the number and sequence of OR genes. Recent research has started to explore the consequences of this genetic variability for how we perceive odours.

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