In vertebrates, odors are thought to be detected by a multigene family encoding several hundreds of seven-transmembrane-domain G-protein-coupled receptors found in fish, rat, mouse, dog, and human. Recently, the putative odorant receptor (OR) gene family in the chicken has been characterized. Twelve members have been isolated and subdivided into six subfamilies. Herein, we have further characterized the chicken olfactory receptor subfamily 7 (COR7) composed of two highly related genes (named COR7a and COR7b) which are 98.5% identical. By in situ hybridization experiments, both COR7a and COR7b transcripts were detected in the olfactory epithelium from embryonic day 6 (E6) to the new born stage. Within the olfactory epithelium, the spatial distribution of COR7a and COR7b labeled cells was random. We also observed that every individual positive cell did not coexpress the COR7a and COR7b genes. Interestingly, the COR7b gene was found to be transiently expressed in the notochord from E2 to E6, whereas COR7a or any of the other known members of the COR gene family were not detected in this mesodermal tissue. These data suggest that, in addition to its potential role as an OR in the olfactory system, COR7b may also have a function in the notochord that is essential for the dorsoventral organization of the neural tube and of the somitic mesoderm. We also discuss the possible role(s) of a putative OR present in both the notochord and the sensory olfactory epithelium.