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Open Access Research article

The sea lamprey Petromyzon marinus genome reveals the early origin of several chemosensory receptor families in the vertebrate lineage

Scot Libants1, Kevin Carr2, Hong Wu1, John H Teeter3, Yu-Wen Chung-Davidson1, Ziping Zhang1, Curt Wilkerson2 and Weiming Li1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA

2 Research Technology Support Facility, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA

3 The Monell Chemical Sense Center, 3500 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-3308, USA

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2009, 9:180  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-9-180

Published: 31 July 2009



In gnathostomes, chemosensory receptors (CR) expressed in olfactory epithelia are encoded by evolutionarily dynamic gene families encoding odorant receptors (OR), trace amine-associated receptors (TAAR), V1Rs and V2Rs. A limited number of OR-like sequences have been found in invertebrate chordate genomes. Whether these gene families arose in basal or advanced vertebrates has not been resolved because these families have not been examined systematically in agnathan genomes.


Petromyzon is the only extant jawless vertebrate whose genome has been sequenced. Known to be exquisitely sensitive to several classes of odorants, lampreys detect fewer amino acids and steroids than teleosts. This reduced number of detectable odorants is indicative of reduced numbers of CR gene families or a reduced number of genes within CR families, or both, in the sea lamprey. In the lamprey genome we identified a repertoire of 59 intact single-exon CR genes, including 27 OR, 28 TAAR, and four V1R-like genes. These three CR families were expressed in the olfactory organ of both parasitic and adult life stages.


An extensive search in the lamprey genome failed to identify potential orthologs or pseudogenes of the multi-exon V2R family that is greatly expanded in teleost genomes, but did find intact calcium-sensing receptors (CASR) and intact metabotropic glutamate receptors (MGR). We conclude that OR and V1R arose in chordates after the cephalochordate-urochordate split, but before the diversification of jawed and jawless vertebrates. The advent and diversification of V2R genes from glutamate receptor-family G protein-coupled receptors, most likely the CASR, occurred after the agnathan-gnathostome divergence.