Are the olfactory repertoires of ancient hominins distinct from modern humans? No research has yet shown that hominin olfactory repertoires are the same as modern humans. Our aim is to determine if novel variants in paleogenomes of extinct hominins and humans resulted in distinct olfactory repertoires. Traditional approaches to inferring gene function in extinct species have relied on computational methods but our approach involves reconstruction of hominin olfactory receptors and experimental validation of their functional responses to odorants. Our main objectives are to:
- Identify variants in paleogenomic sequence data using a custom bioinformatics pipeline
- Create ancient hominin ORs using overlap extension PCR
- Experimentally validate functional variant impact on odorant response in ancient hominin ORs
We are nearing the end of our study and hope to publish results in 2018.