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The genetic basis of androstenone anosmia has been well-studied due to androstenone’s putative role as a human sex pheromone and its presence in pork meat. Polymorphisms have been identified on the olfactory receptor gene OR7D4, which significantly affect perception of androstenone pleasantness and intensity in several western populations.

This study aims to investigate androstenone sensitivity and the influence of OR7D4 polymorphisms in non-western populations. Androstenone perception was tested in 132 individuals from Madagascar using a double 3-Alternative Choice test with two concentrations of androstenone (0.17 μg/ml and 1.7 μg/ml).

We found that Malagasy populations described this molecule in a similar way to European populations, and 21% of the sample was not able to smell androstenone. In contrast to previous studies, there was no significant evidence of the influence of rs61729907: C>T (R88W) and rs5020278: C>T polymorphisms (T133M) on androstenone sensitivity in Malagasy populations. We found, however, a significant effect of the polymorphism rs61732668 (P79L), and a significant difference in androstenone perception between populations in different locations across Madagascar.

This study indicates the existence of population specific factors to androstenone sensitivity, suggesting that population history has a role in shaping an individual’s smell and flavor preferences, and food preferences in general.