Open Access Open Badges Research article

Family structure and phylogenetic analysis of odorant receptor genes in the large yellow croaker (Larimichthys crocea)

Yingsong Zhou1, Xiaojun Yan12*, Shanliang Xu2, Peng Zhu2, Xianxing He2 and Jianxin Liu1

Author Affiliations

1 School of Animal Sciences, Zhejiang University, Kaixuan Road, Hangzhou, China

2 Key Laboratory of Applied Marine Biotechnology, Ningbo University, Fenghua Road, Ningbo, China

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2011, 11:237  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-11-237

Published: 11 August 2011



Chemosensory receptors, which are all G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), come in four types: odorant receptors (ORs), vomeronasal receptors, trace-amine associated receptors and formyl peptide receptor-like proteins. The ORs are the most important receptors for detecting a wide range of environmental chemicals in daily life. Most fish OR genes have been identified from genome databases following the completion of the genome sequencing projects of many fishes. However, it remains unclear whether these OR genes from the genome databases are actually expressed in the fish olfactory epithelium. Thus, it is necessary to clone the OR mRNAs directly from the olfactory epithelium and to examine their expression status.


Eighty-nine full-length and 22 partial OR cDNA sequences were isolated from the olfactory epithelium of the large yellow croaker, Larimichthys crocea. Bayesian phylogenetic analysis classified the vertebrate OR genes into two types, with several clades within each type, and showed that the L. crocea OR genes of each type are more closely related to those of fugu, pufferfish and stickleback than they are to those of medaka, zebrafish and frog. The reconciled tree showed 178 duplications and 129 losses. The evolutionary relationships among OR genes in these fishes accords with their evolutionary history. The fish OR genes have experienced functional divergence, and the different clades of OR genes have evolved different functions. The result of real-time PCR shows that different clades of ORs have distinct expression levels.


We have shown about 100 OR genes to be expressed in the olfactory epithelial tissues of L. crocea. The OR genes of modern fishes duplicated from their common ancestor, and were expanded over evolutionary time. The OR genes of L. crocea are closely related to those of fugu, pufferfish and stickleback, which is consistent with its evolutionary position. The different expression levels of OR genes of large yellow croaker may suggest varying roles of ORs in olfactory function.