SPLTRAK Abstract Submission
Neurogastronomy and the Odorant Receptors
Timothy S. McClintock1, Hiroaki Matsunami2, Claire A. de March2,3
1University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, United States
2Duke University, Durham, NC, United States
3CNRS, Université Paris-Saclay, Gif-sur-Yvette, France

Dr. Gordon M. Shepherd coined the term “neurogastronomy” to encompass the intersection of flavor science with the chemistry and physics of food preparation. He envisioned smell and taste science enhancing the pleasure of eating and improving the formulation of healthy diets. His revolutionary ideas expand opportunities for practical use of chemosensory science and are a natural outlet for public outreach. Neurogastronomy, by its very nature, expands links between the chemical senses and the other fields of science invested in the study of food. It has become a multidisciplinary field of science with its own annual meeting and a strong public education mission. Dr. Shepherd encouraged and supported work on the odorant receptors (ORs), viewing their essential role in generating food odor images as one avenue toward manipulating food preferences. This has motivated our studies of OR response patterns, done in freely behaving mice and followed-up by heterologous expression of ORs in cultured cells. We find that general odorants evoke concentration-dependent responses from numerous ORs. In nearly all cases the responsive ORs are diverse in sequence, arguing that natural selection for OR divergence and expansion have been more important than selection for sensitive detection of specific odorants. OR response patterns to highly similar odorants are surprisingly diverse, suggesting that odor percepts tolerate some variation in OR response pattern. When testing odorant mixtures, we find that interaction effects are common. These are most often antagonism of ORs by an odorant, but additive effects involving multiple agonists are also observed. These data begin to inform us about some of the opportunities Dr. Shepherd envisioned as leading to a more logical and mechanistic science of flavor.