Previous studies examining human olfactory variation have found high variability in olfactory receptor (OR) genes between individuals, sexes, and within and between populations. Humans are also incredibly variable in their phenotypic perception of odors. The full extent of OR genotypic variation and its evolutionary underpinning leading to the diversity of modern phenotypes is unknown. Some research has suggested that evolutionary differential adaptation plays a role in variation within the olfactory subgenome, including weakly expressed pseudogenes. My research is organized around testing the hypothesis that human OR genetic variation is the result of adaptation to local and novel environments (cultural and biological) and has resulted in complex modern olfactory phenotypes and genetic diversity within and between populations.
My current objective is to establish the extent of ecological variation in the evolution of human olfaction. Specifically, I am interested in the mechanisms (drift and selection) giving rise to human genotypes and subsequent complex phenotypes. We hypothesize that patterns of OR gene variation between diverse human populations are linked to biological and cultural adaptation to novel environments. Unique to humans, this biocultural evolution incorporates both cultural and ecological factors into models of gene frequency change between generations.
2015 PI: Paleogenomic reconstruction and functional testing of archaic hominin olfactory receptors. National Science Foundation grant BCS-1550409. $47,857
2015. Hoover KC, Gokcumen O, Qureshy Z, Brugeura E, Savangsuksa A, Cobb M, Matsunami H. Global survey of variation in a human olfactory receptor gene reveals signatures of non-neutral evolution. Chemical Senses 40(7):481-488. DOI: http://10.1093/chemse/bjv030 (5 Year Impact Factor: 2.886). Altmetric score 125 (top 5% of research output).
2013. Hoover KC. Evolution of olfactory receptor cells and genes. In: J Walker, Ed: Olfactory Receptors: Methods and Protocols. Methods in Molecular Biology Series. New Jersey: Humana Press
2011. Hoover KC. The scent emotion, sex, and evolution. Invited editorial. Maturitas 70:1-2.
2011. Hoover KC. Smell with inspiration…the evolutionary significance of olfaction. Yearbook of Physical Anthropology 143(51):63-74. Impact Factor 1.286. DOI: 10.1002/ajpa.21441. #11 in the AJPA (includes Yearbook) Top Downloaded Articles in 2011.
2009. Hoover KC. The Geography of Smell. Cartographica: The International Journal for Geographic Information and Geovisualization 40: 237–239. DOI: 10.3138/carto.44.4.237
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- Why Urbanization Smells Bad(ly) (inverse.com)
- Our Sense of Smell at the Crossroads (Current Biology)
- Plenty of Pheromones in the Sea (Scientific American blogs)