Seven-transmembrane-domain proteins encoded by the vomeronasal receptor V1r and V2r gene superfamilies, and expressed by vomeronasal sensory neurons, are believed to be pheromone receptors in rodents. Four V1r gene families have been described in the mouse (V1ra, V1rb, V1rc and V3r). Here we have screened near-complete mouse genomic databases to obtain a first global draft of the mouse V1r repertoire, including 104 new V1r genes. It comprises eight new and extremely isolated families in addition to the four families previously identified. Members of these new families were expressed in vomeronasal sensory neurons. The genome-wide view revealed great sequence diversity within the V1r superfamily. Phylogenetic analyses suggested an ancient original radiation, followed by the isolation, divergence and expansion of families by extensive gene duplications and frequent gene loss. The isolated nature of these gene families probably reflects a specialization of different receptor classes in the detection of specific types of chemicals.
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