The vomeronasal system of mice is thought to be specialized in the detection of pheromones. Two multigene families have been identified that encode proteins with seven putative transmembrane domains and that are expressed selectively in subsets of neurons of the vomeronasal organ. The products of these vomeronasal receptor (Vr) genes are regarded as candidate pheromone receptors. Little is known about their genomic organization and sequence diversity, and only five sequences of mouse V1r coding regions are publicly available. Here, we have begun to characterize systematically the V1r repertoire in the mouse. We isolated 107 bacterial artificial chromosomes (BACs) containing V1r genes from a 129 mouse library. Hybridization experiments indicate that at least 107 V1r-like sequences reside on these BACs. We assembled most of the BACs into six contigs, of which one major contig and one minor contig were characterized in detail. The major contig is 630-860 kb long, encompasses a cluster of 21-48 V1r genes, and contains marker D6Mit227. Sequencing of the coding regions was facilitated by the absence of introns. We determined the sequence of the coding region of 25 possibly functional V1r genes and seven pseudogenes. The functional V1rs can be arranged into three groups; V1rs of one group are novel and substantially divergent from the other V1rs. The genomic and sequence information described here should be useful in defining the biological function of these receptors.
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