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1.  A carboxylesterase, Esterase-6, modulates sensory physiological and behavioral response dynamics to pheromone in Drosophila 
BMC Biology  2012;10:56.
Insects respond to the spatial and temporal dynamics of a pheromone plume, which implies not only a strong response to 'odor on', but also to 'odor off'. This requires mechanisms geared toward a fast signal termination. Several mechanisms may contribute to signal termination, among which odorant-degrading enzymes. These enzymes putatively play a role in signal dynamics by a rapid inactivation of odorants in the vicinity of the sensory receptors, although direct in vivo experimental evidences are lacking. Here we verified the role of an extracellular carboxylesterase, esterase-6 (Est-6), in the sensory physiological and behavioral dynamics of Drosophila melanogaster response to its pheromone, cis-vaccenyl acetate (cVA). Est-6 was previously linked to post-mating effects in the reproductive system of females. As Est-6 is also known to hydrolyze cVA in vitro and is expressed in the main olfactory organ, the antenna, we tested here its role in olfaction as a putative odorant-degrading enzyme.
We first confirm that Est-6 is highly expressed in olfactory sensilla, including cVA-sensitive sensilla, and we show that expression is likely associated with non-neuronal cells. Our electrophysiological approaches show that the dynamics of olfactory receptor neuron (ORN) responses is strongly influenced by Est-6, as in Est-6° null mutants (lacking the Est-6 gene) cVA-sensitive ORN showed increased firing rate and prolonged activity in response to cVA. Est-6° mutant males had a lower threshold of behavioral response to cVA, as revealed by the analysis of two cVA-induced behaviors. In particular, mutant males exhibited a strong decrease of male-male courtship, in association with a delay in courtship initiation.
Our study presents evidence that Est-6 plays a role in the physiological and behavioral dynamics of sex pheromone response in Drosophila males and supports a role of Est-6 as an odorant-degrading enzyme (ODE) in male antennae. Our results also expand the role of Est-6 in Drosophila biology, from reproduction to olfaction, and highlight the role of ODEs in insect olfaction.
PMCID: PMC3414785  PMID: 22715942
carboxylesterase; esterase 6; olfaction; pheromone; signal termination
2.  The Blunt Trichoid Sensillum of Female Mosquitoes, Anopheles gambiae: Odorant Binding Protein and Receptor Types 
In order to find a blood host and to select appropriate oviposition sites female Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes rely on olfactory cues which are sensed by olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs) located within morphologically different sensilla hairs. While the sharp type trichoid sensilla are most abundant and intensely studied, the striking blunt type trichoid sensilla exist only in small numbers and their specific function is unknown. It has been suggested that they may play a role in the detection of chemical cues indicating oviposition sites. With the aim of identifying molecular elements in blunt type trichoid sensilla, which may be relevant for chemosensory function of this sensillum type, experiments were performed which include whole mount fluorescence in situ hybridization (WM-FISH) and fluorescence immunohistochemistry (WM-FIHC). The studies were concentrated on odorant binding proteins (AgOBPs) and odorant receptors (AgORs). WM-FISH approaches using a probe for the plus-C class AgOBP47 led to the labeling of cells, which resembled in number and antennal distribution pattern the blunt type trichoid sensilla. Moreover, WM-FIHC with an antiserum for AgOBP47 allowed to assign the AgOBP47-expressing cells to blunt type trichoid sensilla and to allocate the protein within the sensillum hair shafts. The result of double WM-FISH-experiments and combined WM-FIHC/FISH approaches indicated that the AgOBP47-expressing cells are co-localized with cells, which express AgOR11, AgOR13 and AgOR55. In addition, it turned out that the two receptor types AgOR13 and AgOR55 are co-expressed in the same cells. Together, the results indicate that the blunt type trichoid sensilla contain a characteristic binding protein, plus-C AgOBP47, in the sensillum lymph and two sensory neurons, one cell which express the odorant receptor AgOR11 and a second cell which express the receptor types AgOR13 and AgOR55. The expression of characteristic chemosensory elements in blunt type trichoid sensilla supports the notion that this sensillum type is involved in sensing distinct odorous compounds.
PMCID: PMC3979995  PMID: 24719560
olfaction; odorant receptor proteins; odorant binding proteins; mRNA expression.
3.  Moth Sex Pheromone Receptors and Deceitful Parapheromones 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e41653.
The insect's olfactory system is so selective that male moths, for example, can discriminate female-produced sex pheromones from compounds with minimal structural modifications. Yet, there is an exception for this “lock-and-key” tight selectivity. Formate analogs can be used as replacement for less chemically stable, long-chain aldehyde pheromones, because male moths respond physiologically and behaviorally to these parapheromones. However, it remained hitherto unknown how formate analogs interact with aldehyde-sensitive odorant receptors (ORs). Neuronal responses to semiochemicals were investigated with single sensillum recordings. Odorant receptors (ORs) were cloned using degenerate primers, and tested with the Xenopus oocyte expression system. Quality, relative quantity, and purity of samples were evaluated by gas chromatography and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. We identified olfactory receptor neurons (ORNs) housed in trichoid sensilla on the antennae of male navel orangeworm that responded equally to the main constituent of the sex pheromone, (11Z,13Z)-hexadecadienal (Z11Z13-16Ald), and its formate analog, (9Z,11Z)-tetradecen-1-yl formate (Z9Z11-14OFor). We cloned an odorant receptor co-receptor (Orco) and aldehyde-sensitive ORs from the navel orangeworm, one of which (AtraOR1) was expressed specifically in male antennae. AtraOR1•AtraOrco-expressing oocytes responded mainly to Z11Z13-16Ald, with moderate sensitivity to another component of the sex pheromone, (11Z,13Z)-hexadecadien-1-ol. Surprisingly, this receptor was more sensitive to the related formate than to the natural sex pheromone. A pheromone receptor from Heliothis virescens, HR13 ( = HvirOR13) showed a similar profile, with stronger responses elicited by a formate analog than to the natural sex pheromone, (11Z)-hexadecenal thus suggesting this might be a common feature of moth pheromone receptors.
PMCID: PMC3401280  PMID: 22911835
4.  Functional classification and central nervous projections of olfactory receptor neurons housed in antennal trichoid sensilla of female yellow fever mosquitoes, Aedes aegypti 
The European Journal of Neuroscience  2007;26(6):1611-1623.
Mosquitoes are highly dependent on their olfactory system for, e.g. host location and identification of nectar-feeding and oviposition sites. Odours are detected by olfactory receptor neurons (ORNs) housed in hair-shaped structures, sensilla, on the antennae and maxillary palps. In order to unravel the function of the olfactory system in the yellow fever vector, Aedes aegypti, we performed single-sensillum recordings from trichoid sensilla on female antennae. These sensilla are divided into four distinct morphological types. Based on the response to a set of 16 odour compounds, we identified 18 different ORN types, housed in 10 sensillum types. The ORNs responded to behaviourally relevant olfactory cues, such as oviposition attractants and sweat-borne compounds, including 4-methylcyclohexanol and indole, respectively. Two ORNs housed in these sensilla, as well as two ORNs housed in an additional sensillum type, did not respond to any of the compounds tested. The ORNs housed in individual sensilla exhibited stereotypical pairing and displayed differences in signalling mode (excitatory and inhibitory) as well as in temporal response patterns. In addition to physiological characterization, we performed anterograde neurobiotin stainings of functionally identified ORNs in order to define the functional map among olfactory glomeruli in the primary olfactory centre, the antennal lobe. The targeted glomeruli were compared with an established 3D map. Our data showed that the ORN types sent their axons to defined antennal lobe glomeruli in a stereotypic pattern.
PMCID: PMC2121139  PMID: 17880395
Aedes aegypti; antennal sensilla; olfaction; ORNs; physiology
5.  An RNA-Seq Screen of the Drosophila Antenna Identifies a Transporter Necessary for Ammonia Detection 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(11):e1004810.
Many insect vectors of disease detect their hosts through olfactory cues, and thus it is of great interest to understand better how odors are encoded. However, little is known about the molecular underpinnings that support the unique function of coeloconic sensilla, an ancient and conserved class of sensilla that detect amines and acids, including components of human odor that are cues for many insect vectors. Here, we generate antennal transcriptome databases both for wild type Drosophila and for a mutant that lacks coeloconic sensilla. We use these resources to identify genes whose expression is highly enriched in coeloconic sensilla, including many genes not previously implicated in olfaction. Among them, we identify an ammonium transporter gene that is essential for ammonia responses in a class of coeloconic olfactory receptor neurons (ORNs), but is not required for responses to other odorants. Surprisingly, the transporter is not expressed in ORNs, but rather in neighboring auxiliary cells. Thus, our data reveal an unexpected non-cell autonomous role for a component that is essential to the olfactory response to ammonia. The defective response observed in a Drosophila mutant of this gene is rescued by its Anopheles ortholog, and orthologs are found in virtually all insect species examined, suggesting that its role is conserved. Taken together, our results provide a quantitative analysis of gene expression in the primary olfactory organ of Drosophila, identify molecular components of an ancient class of olfactory sensilla, and reveal that auxiliary cells, and not simply ORNs, play an essential role in the coding of an odor that is a critical host cue for many insect vectors of human disease.
Author Summary
Olfaction underlies the attraction of insect pests and vectors of disease to their plant and human hosts. In the genetic model insect Drosophila, the neuronal basis of odor coding has been extensively analyzed in the antenna, its major olfactory organ, but the molecular basis of odor coding has not. Additionally, there has been little analysis of any olfactory cells other than neurons. We have undertaken a comprehensive and quantitative analysis of gene expression in the Drosophila antenna. This analysis revealed a surprisingly broad dynamic range of odor receptor and odor binding protein expression, and unexpected expression of taste receptor genes. Further analysis identified 250 genes that are expressed at reduced levels in a mutant lacking an evolutionarily ancient class of sensilla, antennal hairs housing neurons that respond to human odors. One of these genes, a transporter, is expressed in non-neuronal cells but is essential to the response of a neuron to ammonia, a key cue for insect vectors of disease. A mutation in this transporter can be rescued by its mosquito homolog. While many studies of sensory coding consider the neural circuit in isolation, our analysis reveals an essential role for an auxiliary cell.
PMCID: PMC4238959  PMID: 25412082
6.  Requirement for Drosophila SNMP1 for Rapid Activation and Termination of Pheromone-Induced Activity 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(9):e1004600.
Pheromones are used for conspecific communication by many animals. In Drosophila, the volatile male-specific pheromone 11-cis vaccenyl acetate (cVA) supplies an important signal for gender recognition. Sensing of cVA by the olfactory system depends on multiple components, including an olfactory receptor (OR67d), the co-receptor ORCO, and an odorant binding protein (LUSH). In addition, a CD36 related protein, sensory neuron membrane protein 1 (SNMP1) is also involved in cVA detection. Loss of SNMP1 has been reported to eliminate cVA responsiveness, and to greatly increase spontaneous activity of OR67d-expressing olfactory receptor neurons (ORNs). Here, we found the snmp11 mutation did not abolish cVA responsiveness or cause high spontaneous activity. The cVA responses in snmp1 mutants displayed a delayed onset, and took longer to reach peak activity than wild-type. Most strikingly, loss of SNMP1 caused a dramatic delay in signal termination. The profound impairment in signal inactivation accounted for the previously reported “spontaneous activity,” which represented continuous activation following transient exposure to environmental cVA. We introduced the silk moth receptor (BmOR1) in OR67d ORNs of snmp11 flies and found that the ORNs showed slow activation and deactivation kinetics in response to the BmOR1 ligand (bombykol). We expressed the bombykol receptor complex in Xenopus oocytes in the presence or absence of the silk moth SNMP1 (BmSNMP) and found that addition of BmSNMP accelerated receptor activation and deactivation. Our results thus clarify SNMP1 as an important player required for the rapid kinetics of the pheromone response in insects.
Author Summary
Pheromones are chemicals produced and released by animals for social communication with other members of their species. For example, male fruit flies produce a volatile pheromone that is sensed by both males and females, and which functions in gender recognition. This volatile male pheromone, called 11-cis vaccenyl acetate, is detected by olfactory neurons housed in hair-like appendages on the insect antenna. To effectively sense the pheromone, especially during navigation, the olfactory neurons must respond rapidly, and then quickly inactivate after the stimulation ceases. We found that a CD36-related protein referred to as sensory neuron membrane protein 1 (SNMP1) was required by olfactory neurons for the rapid on and off responses to 11-cis vaccenyl acetate. Loss of SNMP1 reduced the initial sensitivity to the pheromone, and then caused a strikingly slower termination of the response after removal of the pheromone. Our findings demonstrate that SNMP1 is a critical player that allows olfactory neurons to achieve sensitive and rapid on and off responses to a pheromone that is critical for social interactions in insects.
PMCID: PMC4177743  PMID: 25255106
7.  Recent Advances in Insect Olfaction, Specifically Regarding the Morphology and Sensory Physiology of Antennal Sensilla of the Female Sphinx Moth Manduca sexta 
Microscopy research and technique  2001;55(5):307-329.
The antennal flagellum of female Manduca sexta bears eight sensillum types: two trichoid, two basiconic, one auriculate, two coeloconic, and one styliform complex sensilla. The first type of trichoid sensillum averages 34 μm in length and is innervated by two sensory cells. The second type averages 26 μm in length and is innervated by either one or three sensory cells. The first type of basiconic sensillum averages 22 μm in length, while the second type averages 15 μm in length. Both types are innervated by three bipolar sensory cells. The auriculate sensillum averages 4 μm in length and is innervated by two bipolar sensory cells. The coeloconic type-A and type-B both average 2 μm in length. The former type is innervated by five bipolar sensory cells, while the latter type, by three bipolar sensory cells. The styliform complex sensillum occurs singly on each annulus and averages 38-40 μm in length. It is formed by several contiguous sensilla. Each unit is innervated by three bipolar sensory cells. A total of 2,216 sensilla were found on a single annulus (annulus 21) of the flagellum. Electrophysiological responses from type-A trichoid sensilla to a large panel of volatile odorants revealed three different subsets of olfactory receptor cells (ORCs). Two subsets responded strongly to only a narrow range of odorants, while the third responded strongly to a broad range of odorants. Anterograde labeling of ORCs from type-A trichoid sensilla revealed that their axons projected mainly to two large female glomeruli of the antennal lobe.
PMCID: PMC2386875  PMID: 11754510
antennal lobe; chemosensory; electron microscopy; electrophysiology; receptor cell
8.  Specificity of the Receptor for the Major Sex Pheromone Component in Heliothis virescens 
In a previous study, the Drosophila melanogaster OR67dGAL4;UAS system was used to functionally characterize the receptor for the major component of the sex pheromone in the tobacco budworm, Heliothis virescens Fabricius (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae), HvOR13. Electrophysiological and behavioral assays showed that transgenic flies expressing HvOR13 responded to (Z)-11-hexadecenal (Z11-16:Ald). However, tests were not performed to determine whether these flies would also respond to secondary components of the H. virescens sex pheromone. Thus, in this study the response spectrum of HvOR13 expressed in this system was examined by performing single cell recordings from odor receptor neuron in trichoid T1 sensilla on antennae of two Or67dGAL4 [1]; UAS-HvOR13 lines stimulated with Z11-16:Ald and six H. virescens secondary pheromone components. Fly courtship assays were also performed to examine the behavioral response of the Or67dGAL4[1]; UAS-HvOR13 flies to Z11-16:Ald and the secondary component Z9-14:Ald. Our combined electrophysiological and behavioral studies indicated high specificity and sensitivity of HvOR13 to Z11-16:Ald. Interestingly, a mutation leading to truncation in the HvOR13 C-terminal region affected but did not abolish pheromone receptor response to Z11-16:Ald. The findings are assessed in relationship to other HvOR13 heterologous expression studies, and the role of the C-terminal domain in receptor function is discussed. A third line expressing HvOR15 was also tested but did not respond to any of the seven pheromone components.
PMCID: PMC4015405  PMID: 24773407
Drosophila melanogaster; HvORI3; T1 sensilla
9.  The Co-Expression Pattern of Odorant Binding Proteins and Olfactory Receptors Identify Distinct Trichoid Sensilla on the Antenna of the Malaria Mosquito Anopheles gambiae 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e69412.
The initial steps of odorant recognition in the insect olfactory system involve odorant binding proteins (OBPs) and odorant receptors (ORs). While large families of OBPs have been identified in the malaria vector A. gambiae, little is known about their expression pattern in the numerous sensory hairs of the female antenna. We applied whole mount fluorescence in Situ hybridization (WM-FISH) and fluorescence immunohistochemistry (WM-FIHC) to investigate the sensilla co-expression of eight A. gambiae OBPs (AgOBPs), most notably AgOBP1 and AgOBP4, which all have abundant transcripts in female antenna. WM-FISH analysis of female antennae using AgOBP-specific probes revealed marked differences in the number of cells expressing each various AgOBPs. Testing combinations of AgOBP probes in two-color WM-FISH resulted in distinct cellular labeling patterns, indicating a combinatorial expression of AgOBPs and revealing distinct AgOBP requirements for various functional sensilla types. WM-FIHC with antisera to AgOBP1 and AgOBP4 confirmed expression of the respective proteins by support cells and demonstrated a location of OBPs within sensilla trichodea. Based on the finding that AgOBP1 and AgOBP4 as well as the receptor type AgOR2 are involved in the recognition of indole, experiments were performed to explore if the AgOBP-types and AgOR2 are co-expressed in distinct olfactory sensilla. Applying two-color WM-FISH with AgOBP-specific probes and probes specific for AgOR2 revealed a close association of support cells bearing transcripts for AgOBP1 and AgOBP4 and neurons with a transcript for the receptor AgOR2. Moreover, combined WM-FISH/-FIHC approaches using an AgOR2-specific riboprobe and AgOBP-specific antisera revealed the expression of the “ligand-matched” AgOBP1, AgOBP4 and AgOR2 to single trichoid hairs. This result substantiates the notion that a specific response to indole is mediated by an interplay of the proteins.
PMCID: PMC3702612  PMID: 23861970
10.  The smell of love in Drosophila 
Odors are key sensory signals for social communication and food search in animals including insects. Drosophila melanogaster, is a powerful neurogenetic model commonly used to reveal molecular and cellular mechanisms involved in odorant detection. Males use olfaction together with other sensory modalities to find their mates. Here, we review known olfactory signals, their related olfactory receptors, and the corresponding neuronal architecture impacting courtship. OR67d receptor detects 11-cis-Vaccenyl Acetate (cVA), a male specific pheromone transferred to the female during copulation. Transferred cVA is able to reduce female attractiveness for other males after mating, and is also suspected to decrease male-male courtship. cVA can also serve as an aggregation signal, maybe through another OR. OR47b was shown to be activated by fly odors, and to enhance courtship depending on taste pheromones. IR84a detects phenylacetic acid (PAA) and phenylacetaldehyde (PA). These two odors are not pheromones produced by flies, but are present in various fly food sources. PAA enhances male courtship, acting as a food aphrodisiac. Drosophila males have thus developed complementary olfactory strategies to help them to select their mates.
PMCID: PMC3617446  PMID: 23576993
courtship; Drosophila; olfaction; receptor; nervous system
11.  Differential Interactions of Sex Pheromone and Plant Odour in the Olfactory Pathway of a Male Moth 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e33159.
Most animals rely on olfaction to find sexual partners, food or a habitat. The olfactory system faces the challenge of extracting meaningful information from a noisy odorous environment. In most moth species, males respond to sex pheromone emitted by females in an environment with abundant plant volatiles. Plant odours could either facilitate the localization of females (females calling on host plants), mask the female pheromone or they could be neutral without any effect on the pheromone. Here we studied how mixtures of a behaviourally-attractive floral odour, heptanal, and the sex pheromone are encoded at different levels of the olfactory pathway in males of the noctuid moth Agrotis ipsilon. In addition, we asked how interactions between the two odorants change as a function of the males' mating status. We investigated mixture detection in both the pheromone-specific and in the general odorant pathway. We used a) recordings from individual sensilla to study responses of olfactory receptor neurons, b) in vivo calcium imaging with a bath-applied dye to characterize the global input response in the primary olfactory centre, the antennal lobe and c) intracellular recordings of antennal lobe output neurons, projection neurons, in virgin and newly-mated males. Our results show that heptanal reduces pheromone sensitivity at the peripheral and central olfactory level independently of the mating status. Contrarily, heptanal-responding olfactory receptor neurons are not influenced by pheromone in a mixture, although some post-mating modulation occurs at the input of the sexually isomorphic ordinary glomeruli, where general odours are processed within the antennal lobe. The results are discussed in the context of mate localization.
PMCID: PMC3299628  PMID: 22427979
12.  Identification of pheromone components and their binding affinity to the odorant binding protein CcapOBP83a-2 of the Mediterranean fruit fly, Ceratitis capitata 
The Mediterranean fruit fly (or medfly), Ceratitis capitata (Wiedemann; Diptera: Tephritidae), is a serious pest of agriculture worldwide, displaying a very wide larval host range with more than 250 different species of fruit and vegetables. Olfaction plays a key role in the invasive potential of this species. Unfortunately, the pheromone communication system of the medfly is complex and still not well established. In this study, we report the isolation of chemicals emitted by sexually mature individuals during the “calling” period and the electrophysiological responses that these compounds elicit on the antennae of male and female flies. Fifteen compounds with electrophysiological activity were isolated and identified in male emissions by gas chromatography coupled to electroantennography (GC–EAG). Within the group of 15 identified compounds, 11 elicited a response in antennae of both sexes, whilst 4 elicited a response only in female antennae. The binding affinity of these compounds, plus 4 additional compounds known to be behaviourally active from other studies, was measured using C. capitata OBP, CcapOBP83a-2. This OBP has a high homology to Drosophila melanogaster OBPs OS-E and OS-F, which are associated with trichoid sensilla and co-expressed with the well-studied Drosophila pheromone binding protein LUSH. The results provide evidence of involvement of CcapOBP83a-2 in the medfly's odorant perception and its wider specificity for (E,E)-α-farnesene, one of the five major compounds in medfly male pheromone emission. This represents the first step in the clarification of the C. capitata and pheromone reception pathway, and a starting point for further studies aimed towards the creation of new powerful attractants or repellents applicable in the actual control strategies.
Graphical abstract
•The pheromone blend produced by medfly males during the calling period is investigated using air entrainment and GC–EAG.•Out of 15 chemicals, 11 elicited antennal responses in both sexes and 4 elicited the response only in female antennae.•The first medfly odorant binding protein CcapOBP83a-2 has been expressed and purified (87).•CcapOBP83a-2 showed binding affinity for (E,E)-α-farnesene, one of the components of medfly pheromone.•The ability of CcapOBP83a-2 to bind other electrophysiologically active compounds shows its broad binding specificity.
PMCID: PMC4003389  PMID: 24607850
Medfly; Ceratitis capitata; Olfaction; Odorant binding protein; Pheromone binding protein; Pheromone; Binding studies; Protein expression; Electroantennography; GC–EAG; Fluorescence displacement; OBP, Odorant binding protein; PBP, Pheromone binding protein; CSP, Chemosensory protein; OR, Odorant receptor; EAG, Electroantennography; GC–EAG, Gas chromatography coupled to electroantennography; SIT, Sterile Insect Technique
13.  Farnesol-Detecting Olfactory Neurons in Drosophila 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2014;34(11):3959-3968.
We set out to deorphanize a subset of putative Drosophila odorant receptors expressed in trichoid sensilla using a transgenic in vivo misexpression approach. We identified farnesol as a potent and specific activator for the orphan odorant receptor Or83c. Farnesol is an intermediate in juvenile hormone biosynthesis, but is also produced by ripe citrus fruit peels. Here, we show that farnesol stimulates robust activation of Or83c-expressing olfactory neurons, even at high dilutions. The CD36 homolog Snmp1 is required for normal farnesol response kinetics. The neurons expressing Or83c are found in a subset of poorly characterized intermediate sensilla. We show that these neurons mediate attraction behavior to low concentrations of farnesol and that Or83c receptor mutants are defective for this behavior. Or83c neurons innervate the DC3 glomerulus in the antennal lobe and projection neurons relaying information from this glomerulus to higher brain centers target a region of the lateral horn previously implicated in pheromone perception. Our findings identify a sensitive, narrowly tuned receptor that mediates attraction behavior to farnesol and demonstrates an effective approach to deorphanizing odorant receptors expressed in neurons located in intermediate and trichoid sensilla that may not function in the classical “empty basiconic neuron” system.
PMCID: PMC3951695  PMID: 24623773
behavior; empty neuron; intermediate sensilla; olfaction; orphan receptor; receptor mutant
14.  Expression of a GABAB - Receptor in Olfactory Sensory Neurons of Sensilla trichodea on the Male Antenna of the Moth Heliothis virescens 
In the olfactory pathway of Drosophila, a GABAB receptor mediated presynaptic gain control mechanism at the first synapse between olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs) and projection neurons has been suggested to play a critical role in setting the sensitivity and detection range of the sensory system. To approach the question if such a mechanism may be realized in the pheromone recognition system of male moths in this study attempts were made to explore if moth's pheromone-responsive cells express a GABAB- receptor. Employing a combination of genome analysis, RT-PCR experiments and screening of an antennal cDNA library we have identified a cDNA which encodes the GABAB-R1 receptor of Heliothis virescens. Moreover, based on the HvirGABAB-R1 sequence we could predict a GABAB-R1 protein from genome sequences of the silkmoth Bombyx mori. To assess whether HvirGABAB-R1 is expressed in OSNs of male antenna we performed whole-mount in situ hybridization (WM-ISH) experiments. Several HvirGABAB-R1 positive cells were visualized under long sensilla trichodea, known to contain pheromone-responsive OSNs. In parallel it was shown that cells under long trichoid hairs were labelled with pheromone receptor specific probes. In addition, the HvirGABAB-R1 specific probe also labelled several cells under shorter olfactory sensilla, but never stained cells under mechanosensory/gustatory sensilla chaetica. Together, the results indicate that a GABAB receptor is expressed in pheromone-responsive OSNs of H. virescens and suggest a presynaptic gain control mechanism in the axon terminals of these cells.
PMCID: PMC3729013  PMID: 23904795
moth; olfaction; GABA; pheromone; in situ hybridization.
15.  Generalization of courtship learning in Drosophila is mediated by cis-vaccenyl acetate 
Current biology : CB  2007;17(7):599-605.
Reproductive behavior in Drosophila has both stereotyped and plastic components that are driven by age- and sex-specific chemical cues. Males who unsuccessfully court virgin females subsequently avoid females that are of the same age as the trainer. In contrast, males trained with mature mated females associate volatile appetitive and aversive pheromonal cues and learn to suppress courtship of all females. Here we show that the volatile aversive pheromone that leads to generalized learning with mated females is (Z)-11-octadecenyl acetate (cis-vaccenyl acetate, cVA). cVA is a major component of the male cuticular hydrocarbon profile, but it is not found on virgin females. During copulation, cVA is transferred to the female in ejaculate along with sperm and peptides that decrease her sexual receptivity. When males sense cVA (either synthetic or from mated female or male extracts) in the context of female pheromone, they develop a generalized suppression of courtship. The effects of cVA on initial courtship of virgin females can be blocked by expression of tetanus toxin in Or65a, but not Or67d neurons, demonstrating that the aversive effects of this pheromone are mediated by a specific class of olfactory neuron. These findings suggest that transfer of cVA to females during mating may be part of the male’s strategy to suppress reproduction by competing males.
PMCID: PMC1913718  PMID: 17363250
Learning and memory; olfaction; Drosophila; pheromones; cis-vaccenyl acetate
16.  The CCHamide 1 receptor modulates sensory perception and olfactory behavior in starved Drosophila 
Scientific Reports  2013;3:2765.
The olfactory response of the vinegar fly Drosophila melanogaster to food odor is modulated by starvation. Here we show that this modulation is not restricted to food odors and their detecting sensory neurons but rather increases the behavioral response to odors as different as food odors, repellents and pheromones. The increased behavioral responsiveness is paralleled by an increased physiological sensitivity of sensory neurons regardless whether they express olfactory or ionotropic receptors and regardless whether they are housed in basiconic, coeloconic, or trichoid sensilla. Silencing several genes that become up-regulated under starvation confirmed the involvement of the short neuropeptide f receptor in the starvation effect. In addition it revealed that the CCHamide-1 receptor is another important factor governing starvation-induced olfactory modifications.
PMCID: PMC3783891  PMID: 24067446
17.  Activation of the T1 Neuronal Circuit is Necessary and Sufficient to Induce Sexually Dimorphic Mating Behavior in Drosophila 
The molecular and cellular events mediating complex behaviors in animals are largely unknown. Elucidating the circuits underlying behaviors in simple model systems may shed light on how these circuits function. In Drosophila, courtship behavior provides a tractable model for studying the underlying basis of innate behavior. The male-specific pheromone 11-cis-vaccenyl acetate (cVA) modulates courtship behavior and is detected by T1 neurons, located on the antenna of male and female flies. The T1 neurons express the odorant receptor Or67d, and are exquisitely tuned to cVA pheromone. However, cVA-induced changes in mating behavior have also been reported upon manipulation of olfactory neurons expressing odorant receptor Or65a. These findings raise the issue of whether multiple olfactory-driven circuits underlie cVA-induced behavioral responses, and what role these circuits play in behavior. Here, we engineered flies in which the Or67d circuit is specifically activated in the absence of cVA in order to determine the role of this circuit in behavior. We created transgenic flies that express a dominant-active, pheromone-independent variant of the extracellular pheromone receptor, LUSH. We found that, similar to the behaviors elicited by cVA, engineered male flies have dramatically reduced courtship, while engineered females showed enhanced courtship. Furthermore, cVA exposure did not enhance the dominant LUSH-triggered effects on behavior in the engineered flies. Finally, we show the effects of both cVA and dominant LUSH on courtship are reversed by genetically removing Or67d. These findings demonstrate that the T1/Or67d circuit is necessary and sufficient to mediate sexually dimorphic courtship behaviors.
PMCID: PMC3426441  PMID: 20164344
lush; Or67d; cVA; courtship; pheromone; olfaction
18.  The Molecular and Cellular Basis of Taste Coding in the Legs of Drosophila 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2014;34(21):7148-7164.
To understand the principles of taste coding, it is necessary to understand the functional organization of the taste organs. Although the labellum of the Drosophila melanogaster head has been described in detail, the tarsal segments of the legs, which collectively contain more taste sensilla than the labellum, have received much less attention. We performed a systematic anatomical, physiological, and molecular analysis of the tarsal sensilla of Drosophila. We construct an anatomical map of all five tarsal segments of each female leg. The taste sensilla of the female foreleg are systematically tested with a panel of 40 diverse compounds, yielding a response matrix of ∼500 sensillum–tastant combinations. Six types of sensilla are characterized. One type was tuned remarkably broadly: it responded to 19 of 27 bitter compounds tested, as well as sugars; another type responded to neither. The midleg is similar but distinct from the foreleg. The response specificities of the tarsal sensilla differ from those of the labellum, as do n-dimensional taste spaces constructed for each organ, enhancing the capacity of the fly to encode and respond to gustatory information. We examined the expression patterns of all 68 gustatory receptors (Grs). A total of 28 Gr–GAL4 drivers are expressed in the legs. We constructed a receptor-to-sensillum map of the legs and a receptor-to-neuron map. Fourteen Gr–GAL4 drivers are expressed uniquely in the bitter-sensing neuron of the sensillum that is tuned exceptionally broadly. Integration of the molecular and physiological maps provides insight into the underlying basis of taste coding.
PMCID: PMC4028494  PMID: 24849350
Drosophila; Gr; gustatory receptor; legs; physiology; taste
19.  Reverse and Conventional Chemical Ecology Approaches for the Development of Oviposition Attractants for Culex Mosquitoes 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(8):e3045.
Synthetic mosquito oviposition attractants are sorely needed for surveillance and control programs for Culex species, which are major vectors of pathogens causing various human diseases, including filariasis, encephalitis, and West Nile encephalomyelitis. We employed novel and conventional chemical ecology approaches to identify potential attractants, which were demonstrated in field tests to be effective for monitoring populations of Cx. p. quinquefasciatus in human dwellings. Immunohistochemistry studies showed that an odorant-binding protein from this species, CquiOBP1, is expressed in trichoid sensilla on the antennae, including short, sharp-tipped trichoid sensilla type, which house an olfactory receptor neuron sensitive to a previously identified mosquito oviposition pheromone (MOP), 6-acetoxy-5-hexadecanolide. CquiOBP1 exists in monomeric and dimeric forms. Monomeric CquiOBP1 bound MOP in a pH-dependent manner, with a change in secondary structure apparently related to the loss of binding at low pH. The pheromone antipode showed higher affinity than the natural stereoisomer. By using both CquiOBP1 as a molecular target in binding assays and gas chromatography-electroantennographic detection (GC-EAD), we identified nonanal, trimethylamine (TMA), and skatole as test compounds. Extensive field evaluations in Recife, Brazil, a region with high populations of Cx. p. quinquefasciatus, showed that a combination of TMA (0.9 µg/l) and nonanal (0.15 ng/µl) is equivalent in attraction to the currently used infusion-based lure, and superior in that the offensive smell of infusions was eliminated in the newly developed synthetic mixture.
PMCID: PMC2516325  PMID: 18725946
20.  Degradation of Pheromone and Plant Volatile Components by a Same Odorant-Degrading Enzyme in the Cotton Leafworm, Spodoptera littoralis 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(12):e29147.
Odorant-Degrading Enzymes (ODEs) are supposed to be involved in the signal inactivation step within the olfactory sensilla of insects by quickly removing odorant molecules from the vicinity of the olfactory receptors. Only three ODEs have been both identified at the molecular level and functionally characterized: two were specialized in the degradation of pheromone compounds and the last one was shown to degrade a plant odorant.
Previous work has shown that the antennae of the cotton leafworm Spodoptera littoralis, a worldwide pest of agricultural crops, express numerous candidate ODEs. We focused on an esterase overexpressed in males antennae, namely SlCXE7. We studied its expression patterns and tested its catalytic properties towards three odorants, i.e. the two female sex pheromone components and a green leaf volatile emitted by host plants.
SlCXE7 expression was concomitant during development with male responsiveness to odorants and during adult scotophase with the period of male most active sexual behaviour. Furthermore, SlCXE7 transcription could be induced by male exposure to the main pheromone component, suggesting a role of Pheromone-Degrading Enzyme. Interestingly, recombinant SlCXE7 was able to efficiently hydrolyze the pheromone compounds but also the plant volatile, with a higher affinity for the pheromone than for the plant compound. In male antennae, SlCXE7 expression was associated with both long and short sensilla, tuned to sex pheromones or plant odours, respectively. Our results thus suggested that a same ODE could have a dual function depending of it sensillar localisation. Within the pheromone-sensitive sensilla, SlCXE7 may play a role in pheromone signal termination and in reduction of odorant background noise, whereas it could be involved in plant odorant inactivation within the short sensilla.
PMCID: PMC3246455  PMID: 22216190
21.  Variant Ionotropic Receptors Are Expressed in Olfactory Sensory Neurons of Coeloconic Sensilla on the Antenna of the Desert Locust (Schistocerca gregaria) 
The behaviour of the desert locust, Schistocera gregaria, is largely directed by volatile olfactory cues. The relevant odorants are detected by specialized antennal sensory neurons which project their sensory dendrites into hair-like structures, the sensilla. Generally, the responsiveness of the antennal chemosensory cells is determined by specific receptors which may be either odorant receptors (ORs) or variant ionotropic receptors (IRs). Previously, we demonstrated that in locust the co-receptor for ORs (ORco) is only expressed in cells of sensilla basiconica and sensilla trichodea, suggesting that cells in sensilla coeloconica may express different types of chemosensory receptors. In this study, we have identified the genes of S. gregaria which encode homologues of co-receptors for the variant ionotropic receptors, the subtypes IR8a and IR25a. It was found that both subtypes, SgreIR8a and SgreIR25a, are expressed in the antennae of all five nymphal stages and in adults. Attempts to assign the relevant cell types by means of in situ hybridization revealed that SgreIR8a and SgreIR25a are expressed in cells of sensilla coeloconica. Double fluorescence in situ hybridization experiments disclosed that the two IR-subtypes are co-expressed in some cells of this sensillum type. Expression of SgreIR25a was also found in some of the sensilla chaetica, however, neither SgreIR25a nor SgreIR8a was found to be expressed in sensilla basiconica and sensilla trichodea. This observation was substantiated by the results of double FISH experiments demonstrating that cells expressing SgreIR8a or SgreIR25a do not express ORco. These results support the notion that the antenna of the desert locust employs two different populations of OSNs to sense odors; cells which express IRs in sensilla coeloconica and cells which express ORs in sensilla basiconica and sensilla trichodea.
PMCID: PMC3879586  PMID: 24391446
locust; olfaction; ionotropic receptors; in situ hybridization
22.  Ultrastructure of the Antennal Sensillae of Male and Female Peach Fruit Fly, Bactrocera zonata 
Antennal morphology and funicular sensillae of male and female peach fruit flies, Bactrocera zonata (Saunders) (Diptera: Tephritidae), were studied with scanning electron microscopy (SEM). This study focused on the sensillae found on the antennal segments (scape, pedicel, and flagellum or funiculus that bears the arista) of B. zonata. Antennal segments of females tended to be larger than those of the males. The first two antennal segments, scape and pedicel, were heavily covered with microtrichia and bear bristles. Numerous microtrichia as well as trichoid (I, II), basiconic, clavate, and coeloconic sensillae were observed on the funiculus. SEM studies showed some differences in size and also in position of some sensillae on the antennae of the females of B. zonata. The sensillae found on the funiculus, such as trichoid and basiconic sensillae, were significantly larger in females.
PMCID: PMC4206243  PMID: 25373192
antennae; funicular sensilla; scanning electron microscopy
23.  Morphological characterization of the antennal sensilla of t he earwig Anisolabis maritima (Dermaptera: Carcinophoridae) with reference to their probable functions 
The earwig, Anisolabis maritima (Dermaptera: Carcinophoridae), is one of the most significant insects in KSA because, it was recorded in Saudi Arabia as a beneficial predator on eggs and newly hatched larvae of the red palm weevil, Rhyncophorus ferrugineus. We examined the external morphology of the antennal sensilla of males and females of A. maritima using scanning electron microscopy (SEM). The filiform antennae of A. maritima were of the conventional type comprising a basal scape, pedicle and a long, thread-like flagellum, which was composed of 12 flagellomeres of males and 16 flagellomeres of females. Six morphologically unique sensillar types were found and described on the antennae of males and females of A. maritima. Of those identified, there were three types of porous trichoid sensilla (long, curved and arcuate), and two types of basiconic sensilla (short and curved), and one type of aporous trichoid sensilla. The shape, external morphology and array of sensilla on the antennae of males and females of A. maritima were similar.
PMCID: PMC3730710  PMID: 23961038
Earwig; Anisolabis maritima; Sensilla; Antennae; Scanning electron microscopy
24.  Peripheral Coding of Sex Pheromone Blends with Reverse Ratios in Two Helicoverpa Species 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e70078.
The relative proportions of components in a pheromone blend play a major role in sexual recognition in moths. Two sympatric species, Helicoverpa armigera and Helicoverpa assulta, use (Z)-11-hexadecenal (Z11–16: Ald) and (Z)-9-hexadecenal (Z9–16: Ald) as essential sex pheromone components but in very different ratios, 97∶3 and 7∶93 respectively. Using wind tunnel tests, single sensillum recording and in vivo calcium imaging, we comparatively studied behavioral responses and physiological activities at the level of antennal sensilla and antennal lobe (AL) in males of the two species to blends of the two pheromone components in different ratios (100∶0, 97∶3, 50∶50, 7∶93, 0∶100). Z11–16: Ald and Z9–16: Ald were recognized by two populations of olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs) in different trichoid sensilla on antennae of both species. The ratios of OSNs responding to Z11–16:Ald and Z9–16:Ald OSNs were 100∶28.9 and 21.9∶100 in H. armigera and H. assulta, respectively. The Z11–16:Ald OSNs in H. armigera exhibited higher sensitivity and efficacy than those in H. assulta, while the Z9–16:Ald OSNs in H. armigera had the same sensitivity but lower efficacy than those in H. assulta. At the dosage of 10 µg, Z11–16: Ald and Z9–16: Ald evoked calcium activity in 8.5% and 3.0% of the AL surface in H. armigera, while 5.4% and 8.6% of AL in H. assulta, respectively. The calcium activities in the AL reflected the peripheral input signals of the binary pheromone mixtures and correlated with the behavioral output. These results demonstrate that the binary pheromone blends were precisely coded by the firing frequency of individual OSNs tuned to Z11–16: Ald or Z9–16: Ald, as well as their population sizes. Such information was then accurately reported to ALs of H. armigera and H. assulta, eventually producing different behaviors.
PMCID: PMC3720945  PMID: 23894593
25.  miR-124 controls male reproductive success in Drosophila 
eLife  2013;2:e00640.
Many aspects of social behavior are controlled by sex-specific pheromones. Gender-appropriate production of the sexually dimorphic transcription factors doublesex and fruitless controls sexual differentiation and sexual behavior. miR-124 mutant males exhibited increased male–male courtship and reduced reproductive success with females. Females showed a strong preference for wild-type males over miR-124 mutant males when given a choice of mates. These effects were traced to aberrant pheromone production. We identified the sex-specific splicing factor transformer as a functionally significant target of miR-124 in this context, suggesting a role for miR-124 in the control of male sexual differentiation and behavior, by limiting inappropriate expression of the female form of transformer. miR-124 is required to ensure fidelity of gender-appropriate pheromone production in males. Use of a microRNA provides a secondary means of controlling the cascade of sex-specific splicing events that controls sexual differentiation in Drosophila.
eLife digest
Like many animals, the fruit fly Drosophila uses pheromones to influence sexual behaviour, with males and females producing different versions of these chemicals. One of the pheromones produced by male flies, for example, is a chemical called 11-cis-vaccenyl-acetate (cVA), which is an aphrodisiac for female flies and an anti-aphrodisiac for males.
The production of the correct pheromones in each sex is genetically controlled using a process called splicing that allows a single gene to be expressed as two or more different proteins. A variety of proteins called splicing factors ensures that splicing results in the production of the correct pheromones for each sex. Sometimes, however, the process by which sex genes are expressed as proteins can be ‘leaky’, which results in the wrong proteins being produced for one or both sexes.
Small RNA molecules called microRNAs act in some genetic pathways to limit the leaky expression of genes, and a microRNA called miR-124 carries out this function in the developing brain Drosophila. Now, Weng et al. show that miR-124 also helps to regulate sex-specific splicing and thereby to control pheromone production and sexual behaviour.
Mutant male flies lacking miR-124 were less successful than wild-type males at mating with female flies, and were almost always rejected if a female fly was given a choice between a mutant male and a wild-type male. Moreover, both wild-type and mutant male flies were more likely to initiate courtship behaviour towards another male if it lacked miR-124 than if it did not.
The mutant male flies produced less cVA than wild-type males, but more of other pheromones called pentacosenes, which is consistent with the observed behaviour because cVA attracts females and repels males, whereas pentacosenes act as aphrodisiacs for male flies in large amounts. Weng et al. showed that these changes in the production of pheromones were caused by an increased expression of the female version of a splicing factor called transformer in the mutant males, but further work is needed to understand this process in detail.
PMCID: PMC3679528  PMID: 23795292
microRNA; pheromome; behaviour; genetics; selection; evolution; D. melanogaster

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