There is increasing appreciation that G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) can initiate diverse cellular responses by activating multiple G proteins, arrestins, and other biochemical effectors. Structurally different ligands targeting the same receptor are thought to stabilize the receptor in multiple distinct active conformations such that specific subsets of signaling effectors are engaged at the exclusion of others, creating a bias toward a particular outcome, which has been referred to as ligand-induced selective signaling, biased agonism, ligand-directed signaling, and functional selectivity, among others. The potential involvement of functional selectivity in mammalian olfactory signal transduction has received little attention, notwithstanding the fact that mammalian olfactory receptors comprise the largest family of mammalian GPCRs. This position review considers the possibility that, although such complexity in G-protein function may have been lost in the specialization of olfactory receptors to serve as sensory receptors, the ability of olfactory receptor neurons (ORNs) to function as signal integrators and growing appreciation that this functionality is widespread in the receptor population suggest otherwise. We pose that functional selectivity driving 2 opponent inputs have the potential to generate an output that reflects the balance of ligand-dependent signaling, the direction of which could be either suppressive or synergistic and, as such, needs to be considered as a mechanistic basis for signal integration in mammalian ORNs.

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