For animals to execute odor-driven behaviors, the olfactory system must process complex odor signals and maintain stimulus identity in the face of constantly changing odor intensities [1–5]. Surprisingly, how the olfactory system maintains identity of complex odors is unclear [6–10]. We took advantage of the plant-pollinator relationship between the Sacred Datura (Datura wrightii) and the moth Manduca sexta [11, 12] to determine how olfactory networks in this insect’s brain represent odor mixtures. We combined gas chromatography and neural-ensemble recording in the moth’s antennal lobe to examine population codes for the floral mixture and its fractionated components. Although the floral scent of D. wrightii comprises at least 60 compounds, only nine of those elicited robust neural responses. Behavioral experiments confirmed that these nine odorants mediate flower-foraging behaviors, but only as a mixture. Moreover, the mixture evoked equivalent foraging behaviors over a 1000-fold range in dilution, suggesting a singular percept across this concentration range. Furthermore, neural-ensemble recordings in the moth’s antennal lobe revealed that reliable encoding of the floral mixture is organized through synchronized activity distributed across a population of glomerular coding units, and this timing mechanism may bind the features of a complex stimulus into a coherent odor percept.
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.
In many insects, mate finding relies on female-released sex pheromones, which have to be deciphered by the male olfactory system within an odorous background of plant volatiles present in the environment of a calling female. With respect to pheromone-mediated mate localization, plant odorants may be neutral, favorable, or disturbing. Here we examined the impact of plant odorants on detection and coding of the major sex pheromone component, (Z)-11-hexadecenal (Z11-16:Ald) in the noctuid moth Heliothis virescens. By in vivo imaging the activity in the male antennal lobe (AL), we monitored the interference at the level of olfactory sensory neurons (OSN) to illuminate mixture interactions. The results show that stimulating the male antenna with Z11-16:Ald and distinct plant-related odorants simultaneously suppressed pheromone-evoked activity in the region of the macroglomerular complex (MGC), where Z11-16:Ald-specific OSNs terminate. Based on our previous findings that antennal detection of Z11-16:Ald involves an interplay of the pheromone binding protein (PBP) HvirPBP2 and the pheromone receptor (PR) HR13, we asked if the plant odorants may interfere with any of the elements involved in pheromone detection. Using a competitive fluorescence binding assay, we found that the plant odorants neither bind to HvirPBP2 nor affect the binding of Z11-16:Ald to the protein. However, imaging experiments analyzing a cell line that expressed the receptor HR13 revealed that plant odorants significantly inhibited the Z11-16:Ald-evoked calcium responses. Together the results indicate that plant odorants can interfere with the signaling process of the major sex pheromone component at the receptor level. Consequently, it can be assumed that plant odorants in the environment may reduce the firing activity of pheromone-specific OSNs in H. virescens and thus affect mate localization.
pheromone detection; antennal lobe; pheromone receptor; pheromone binding protein; olfaction
Calling female moths attract their mates late at night with intermittent release of a species-specific sex-pheromone blend. Mean frequency of pheromone filaments encodes distance to the calling female. In their zig-zagging upwind search male moths encounter turbulent pheromone blend filaments at highly variable concentrations and frequencies. The male moth antennae are delicately designed to detect and distinguish even traces of these sex pheromones amongst the abundance of other odors. Its olfactory receptor neurons sense even single pheromone molecules and track intermittent pheromone filaments of highly variable frequencies up to about 30 Hz over a wide concentration range. In the hawkmoth Manduca sexta brief, weak pheromone stimuli as encountered during flight are detected via a metabotropic PLCβ-dependent signal transduction cascade which leads to transient changes in intracellular Ca2+ concentrations. Strong or long pheromone stimuli, which are possibly perceived in direct contact with the female, activate receptor-guanylyl cyclases causing long-term adaptation. In addition, depending on endogenous rhythms of the moth's physiological state, hormones such as the stress hormone octopamine modulate second messenger levels in sensory neurons. High octopamine levels during the activity phase maximize temporal resolution cAMP-dependently as a prerequisite to mate location. Thus, I suggest that sliding adjustment of odor response threshold and kinetics is based upon relative concentration ratios of intracellular Ca2+ and cyclic nucleotide levels which gate different ion channels synergistically. In addition, I propose a new hypothesis for the cyclic nucleotide-dependent ion channel formed by insect olfactory receptor/coreceptor complexes. Instead of being employed for an ionotropic mechanism of odor detection it is proposed to control subthreshold membrane potential oscillation of sensory neurons, as a basis for temporal encoding of odors.
insect olfaction; second messengers; octopamine; circadian rhythms; signal transduction cascades; field potentials; subthreshold membrane potential oscillations; temporal encoding
In many moths, mate-finding communication is mediated by the female sex pheromones. Since differentiation of sex pheromones is often associated with speciation, it is intriguing to know how the changes in female sex pheromone have been tracked by the pheromone recognition system of the males. A male-specific odorant receptor was found to have been conserved through the evolution of sex pheromone communication systems in the genus Ostrinia (Lepidoptera: Crambidae). In an effort to characterize pheromone receptors of O. scapulalis, which uses a mixture of (E)-11- and (Z)-11-tetradecenyl acetates as a sex pheromone, we cloned a gene (OscaOR1) encoding a male-specific odorant receptor. In addition, we cloned a gene of the Or83b family (OscaOR2). Functional assays using Xenopus oocytes co-expressing OscaOR1 and OscaOR2 have shown that OscaOR1 is, unexpectedly, a receptor of (E)-11-tetradecenol (E11-14:OH), a single pheromone component of a congener O. latipennis. Subsequent studies on O. latipennis showed that this species indeed has a gene orthologous to OscaOR1 (OlatOR1), a functional assay of which confirmed it to be a gene encoding the receptor of E11-14:OH. Furthermore, investigations of six other Ostrinia species have revealed that all of them have a gene orthologous to OscaOR1, although none of these species, except O. ovalipennis, a species most closely related to O. latipennis, uses E11-14:OH as the pheromone component. The present findings suggest that the male-specific receptor of E11-14:OH was acquired before the divergence of the genus Ostrinia, and functionally retained through the evolution of this genus.
odorant receptor; pheromone receptor; Ostrinia; (E)-11-tetradecenol; functional assay
In southwestern USA, the jimsonweed Datura wrightii and the nocturnal moth Manduca sexta form a pollinator–plant and herbivore–plant association. Because the floral scent is probably important in mediating this interaction, we investigated the floral volatiles that might attract M. sexta for feeding and oviposition. We found that flower volatiles increase oviposition and include small amounts of both enantiomers of linalool, a common component of the scent of hawkmoth-pollinated flowers. Because (+)-linalool is processed in a female-specific glomerulus in the primary olfactory centre of M. sexta, we hypothesized that the enantiomers of linalool differentially modulate feeding and oviposition. Using a synthetic mixture that mimics the D. wrightii floral scent, we found that the presence of linalool was not necessary to evoke feeding and that mixtures containing (+)- and/or (−)-linalool were equally effective in mediating this behaviour. By contrast, females oviposited more on plants emitting (+)-linalool (alone or in mixtures) over control plants, while plants emitting (−)-linalool (alone or in mixtures) were less preferred than control plants. Together with our previous investigations, these results show that linalool has differential effects in feeding and oviposition through two neural pathways: one that is sexually isomorphic and non-enantioselective, and another that is female-specific and enantioselective.
olfaction; moth; oviposition; Manduca sexta
Within insect species, olfactory signals play a vital role in communication, particularly in the context of mating. During courtship, males of many moth species release pheromones that function as aphrodisiacs for conspecific females, or repellants to competing conspecific males. The physiology and antennal lobe projections are described of olfactory receptor neurons within an antennal sensillum present on male Heliothis virescens F. (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) moths sensitive to conspecific male H. virescens-produced pheromone components. Olfactory receptor neurons responded to hexadecanyl acetate and octadecanyl acetate hairpencil components, and Z11-hexadecenyl acetate, an odorant used by closely related heliothine species in their female produced pheromone, which is antagonistic to male H. virescens responses. This acetate-sensitive sensillum appears homologous to a sensillum type previously described in females of this species, sharing similar physiology and glomerular projection targets within the antennal lobe. Wind tunnel observations indicate that H. virescens hairpencil odors (hexadecanyl acetate, octadecanyl acetate) function to antagonize responses of conspecific males following a female sex pheromone plume. Thus, male-male flight antagonism in H. virescens appears to be mediated by this particular sensillum type.
Heliothis virescens; Lepidoptera; courtship; behavioral antagonist; cobalt-lysine staining; antennal lobe; olfactory receptor neuron
Many animals rely on chemical cues to recognize and locate a resource, and they must extract the relevant information from a complex and changing odor environment. For example, in moths, finding a mate is mediated by a sex pheromone, which is detected in a rich environment of volatile plant compounds. Here, we investigated the effects of a volatile plant background on the walking response of male Spodoptera littoralis to the female pheromone. Males were stimulated by combining pheromone with one of three plant compounds, and their walking paths were recorded with a locomotion compensator and analyzed. We found that the addition of certain volatile plant compounds disturbed the orientation toward the sex pheromone. The effect on locomotion was correlated with the capacity of the plant compound to antagonize pheromone detection by olfactory receptor neurons, suggesting a masking effect of the background over the pheromone signal. Moths were more sensitive to changes in background compared to a constant background, suggesting that a background odor also acts as a distracting stimulus. Our experiments show that the effects of odorant background on insect responses to chemical signals are complex and cannot be explained by a single mechanism.
Tuning of the olfactory system of male moths to conspecific female sex pheromones is crucial for correct species recognition; however, little is known about the genetic changes that drive speciation in this system. Moths of the genus Ostrinia are good models to elucidate this question, since significant differences in pheromone blends are observed within and among species. Odorant receptors (ORs) play a critical role in recognition of female sex pheromones; eight types of OR genes expressed in male antennae were previously reported in Ostrinia moths.
We screened an O. nubilalis bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) library by PCR, and constructed three contigs from isolated clones containing the reported OR genes. Fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) analysis using these clones as probes demonstrated that the largest contig, which contained eight OR genes, was located on the Z chromosome; two others harboring two and one OR genes were found on two autosomes. Sequence determination of BAC clones revealed the Z-linked OR genes were closely related and tandemly arrayed; moreover, four of them shared 181-bp direct repeats spanning exon 7 and intron 7.
This is the first report of tandemly arrayed sex pheromone receptor genes in Lepidoptera. The localization of an OR gene cluster on the Z chromosome agrees with previous findings for a Z-linked locus responsible for O. nubilalis male behavioral response to sex pheromone. The 181-bp direct repeats might enhance gene duplications by unequal crossovers. An autosomal locus responsible for male response to sex pheromone in Heliothis virescens and H. subflexa was recently reported to contain at least four OR genes. Taken together, these findings support the hypothesis that generation of additional copies of OR genes can increase the potential for male moths to acquire altered specificity for pheromone components, and accordingly, facilitate differentiation of sex pheromones.
In either the vertebrate nose or the insect antenna, most olfactory receptor neurons (ORNs) respond to multiple odors. However, some ORNs respond to just a single odor, or at most to a few highly related odors. It has been hypothesized that narrowly-tuned ORNs project to narrowly-tuned neurons in the brain, and that these dedicated circuits mediate innate behavioral responses to a particular ligand. Here we have investigated neural activity and behavior downstream from two narrowly-tuned ORN types in Drosophila. We found that genetically ablating either of these ORN types impairs innate behavioral attraction to their cognate ligand. Neurons in the antennal lobe postsynaptic to one of these ORN types are, like their presynaptic ORNs, narrowly tuned to a pheromone. However, neurons postsynaptic to the second ORN type are broadly tuned. These results demonstrate that some narrowly-tuned ORNs project to dedicated central circuits, ensuring a tight connection between stimulus and behavior, whereas others project to central neurons which participate in the ensemble representations of many odors.
An animal navigating to an unseen odor source must accurately resolve the spatiotemporal distribution of that stimulus in order to express appropriate upwind flight behavior. Intermittency of natural odor plumes, caused by air turbulence, is critically important for many insects, including the hawkmoth, Manduca sexta, for odor-modulated search behavior to an odor source. When a moth's antennae receive intermittent odor stimulation, the projection neurons (PNs) in the primary olfactory centers (the antennal lobes), which are analogous to the olfactory bulbs of vertebrates, generate discrete bursts of action potentials separated by periods of inhibition, suggesting that the PNs may use the binary burst/non-burst neural patterns to resolve and enhance the intermittency of the stimulus encountered in the odor plume.
We tested this hypothesis first by establishing that bicuculline methiodide reliably and reversibly disrupted the ability of PNs to produce bursting response patterns. Behavioral studies, in turn, demonstrated that after injecting this drug into the antennal lobe at the effective concentration used in the physiological experiments animals could no longer efficiently locate the odor source, even though they had detected the odor signal.
Our results establish a direct link between the bursting response pattern of PNs and the odor-tracking behavior of the moth, demonstrating the behavioral significance of resolving the dynamics of a natural odor stimulus in antennal lobe circuits.
Tracking scents and locating odor sources is a major challenge in robotics. The odor plume is not a continuous cloud but consists of intermittent odor patches dispersed by the wind. Far from the source, the probability of encountering one of these patches vanishes. In such dilute conditions, a good strategy is to first ‘explore’ the environment and gather information, then ‘exploit’ current knowledge and direct toward the estimated source location. Infotactic navigation has been recently proposed to strike the balance between exploration and exploitation. Infotaxis was tested in simulation and produced trajectories similar to those observed in the flight of moths attracted by a sexual pheromone. In this paper, we assess the performance of infotaxis in dilute conditions by combining robotic experiments and simulations. Our results indicate that infotaxis is both effective (seven detections on average were sufficient to reach the source) and robust (the source is found in presence of inaccurate modeling by the searcher). The biomimetic characteristic of infotaxis is also preserved when searching with a robot in a real environment.
robot; infotaxis; olfactory search; chemical plume; artificial ethology; insect behavior
An essential part of sexual reproduction typically involves the
identification of an appropriate mating partner. Males of many moth species
utilize the scent of sex pheromones to track and locate conspecific females.
However, before males engage in flight, warm-up by shivering of the major flight
muscles is necessary to reach a thoracic temperature suitable to sustain flight.
Here we show that Helicoverpa zea males exposed to an
attractive pheromone blend (and in some instances to the primary pheromone
component alone) started shivering earlier and took off at a lower thoracic
temperature than moths subjected to other incomplete or unattractive blends.
This resulted in less time spent shivering and faster heating rates. Two
interesting results emerge from these experiments. First, the rate of heat
generation can be modulated by different olfactory cues. Second, males detecting
the pheromone blend take off at lower thoracic temperatures than males exposed
to other stimuli. The take-off temperature of these males was below that for
optimal power production in the flight muscles, thus generating a trade-off
between rapid departure and suboptimal flight performance. Our results shed
light on thermoregulatory behaviour of unrestrained moths associated with the
scramble competition for access to females and suggest ecological trade-offs
between rapid flight initiation and sub-optimal flight performance.
thermoregulation; shivering; flight; sex pheromone; Noctuidae; insect
Antennal olfaction is extremely important for insect survival, mediating key behaviors such as host preference, mate choice, and oviposition site selection. Multiple antennal proteins are involved in olfactory signal transduction pathways. Of these, odorant receptors (ORs) and ionotropic receptors (IRs) confer specificity on olfactory sensory neuron responses. In this study, we identified the olfactory gene repertoire of the economically important agricultural pest moth, Helicoverpa armigera, by assembling the adult male and female antennal transcriptomes. Within the male and female antennal transcriptomes we identified a total of 47 OR candidate genes containing 6 pheromone receptor candidates. Additionally, 12 IR genes as well as 26 odorant-binding proteins and 12 chemosensory proteins were annotated. Our results allow a systematic functional analysis across much of conventional ORs repertoire and newly reported IRs mediating the key olfaction-mediated behaviors of H. armigera.
The honeybee has to detect, process and learn numerous complex odours from her natural environment on a daily basis. Most of these odours are floral scents, which are mixtures of dozens of different odorants. To date, it is still unclear how the bee brain unravels the complex information contained in scent mixtures.
This study investigates learning of complex odour mixtures in honeybees using a simple olfactory conditioning procedure, the Proboscis-Extension-Reflex (PER) paradigm. Restrained honeybees were trained to three scent mixtures composed of 14 floral odorants each, and then tested with the individual odorants of each mixture. Bees did not respond to all odorants of a mixture equally: They responded well to a selection of key odorants, which were unique for each of the three scent mixtures. Bees showed less or very little response to the other odorants of the mixtures. The bees' response to mixtures composed of only the key odorants was as good as to the original mixtures of 14 odorants. A mixture composed of the other, non-key-odorants elicited a significantly lower response. Neither an odorant's volatility or molecular structure, nor learning efficiencies for individual odorants affected whether an odorant became a key odorant for a particular mixture. Odorant concentration had a positive effect, with odorants at high concentration likely to become key odorants.
Our study suggests that the brain processes complex scent mixtures by predominantly learning information from selected key odorants. Our observations on key odorant learning lend significant support to previous work on olfactory learning and mixture processing in honeybees.
Odors evoke complex spatiotemporal responses in the insect antennal lobe (AL) and mammalian olfactory bulb. However, the behavioral relevance of spatiotemporal coding remains unclear. In the present work we combined behavioral analyses with calcium imaging of odor induced activity in the honey bee AL to evaluate the relevance of this temporal dimension in the olfactory code. We used a new way for evaluation of odor similarity of binary mixtures in behavioral studies, which involved testing if a match of odor sampling time is necessary between training and testing conditions for odor recognition during associative learning. Using graded changes in the similarity of the mixture ratios, we found high correlations between the behavioral generalization across those mixtures and a gradient of activation in AL output. Furthermore, short odor stimuli of 500 ms or less affected how well odors were matched with a memory template, and this time corresponded to a shift from a sampling-time-dependent to a sampling-time-independent memory. Accordingly, 375 ms corresponded to the time required for spatiotemporal AL activity patterns to reach maximal separation according to imaging studies. Finally, we compared spatiotemporal representations of binary mixtures in trained and untrained animals. AL activity was modified by conditioning to improve separation of odor representations. These data suggest that one role of reinforcement is to “tune” the AL such that relevant odors become more discriminable.
olfaction; synchrony; transients; spatiotemporal coding; plasticity; calcium imaging; discrimination
Insects pinpoint mates, food and oviposition sites by olfactory cues. Recognizing and localizing a suitable target by olfaction is demanding. Odor sources emit characteristic blends of compounds that have to be identified against an environmentally derived olfactory background. This background, however, does not necessarily disturb the localization of a source. Rather, the contrary. Sex pheromones become more attractive to male moths when being presented against a relevant plant background. Here we asked whether such olfactory coaction also characterizes foraging cues. The tobacco hornworm Manduca sexta feeds on nectar from wild tobacco Nicotiana attenuata and sacred datura Datura wrightii flowers. We tested how leaf-derived volatile blends as a background affect the moths' approach to flower blends. We found coaction when a flower blend was presented against a conspecific leaf volatile background but not when the blend was presented against volatiles emitted by the other host plant or by a non-host plant. Hence, our results reveal a species-specific coaction between flower blend and leaf volatile background. The ability to integrate information from different odor sources on one plant might provide the moth with a fine-grained analysis of food site quality.
Animals can be innately attracted to certain odorants. Because these attractants are particularly salient, they might be expected to induce relatively strong responses throughout the olfactory pathway, helping animals detect the most relevant odors but limiting flexibility to respond to other odors. Alternatively, specific neural wiring might link innately preferred odors to appropriate behaviors without a need for intensity biases. How nonpheromonal attractants are processed by the general olfactory system remains largely unknown. In the moth Manduca sexta, we studied this with a set of innately preferred host plant odors and other, neutral odors. Electroantennogram recordings showed that, as a population, olfactory receptor neurons (ORNs) did not respond with greater intensity to host plant odors, and further local field potential recordings showed that no specific amplification of signals induced by host plant odors occurred between the first olfactory center and the second. Moreover, when odorants were mutually diluted to elicit equally intense output from the ORNs, moths were able to learn to associate all tested odorants equally well with food reward. Together, these results suggest that, although nonpheromonal host plant odors activate broadly distributed responses, they may be linked to attractive behaviors mainly through specific wiring in the brain.
innate preference; insect; mushroom body; odor; olfactory learning; olfactory receptor neuron
The attractiveness to male navel orangeworm moth, Amyelois transitella, of various combinations of a four-component pheromone blend was measured in wind-tunnel bioassays. Upwind flight along the pheromone plume and landing on the odor source required the simultaneous presence of two components, (11Z,13Z)-hexadecadienal and (3Z,6Z,9Z,12Z,15Z)-tricosapentaene, and the addition of either (11Z,13Z)-hexadecadien-1-ol or (11Z,13E)-hexadecadien-1-ol. A mixture of all four components produced the highest levels of rapid source location and source contact. In wind-tunnel assays, males did not seem to distinguish among a wide range of ratios of any of the three components added to (11Z,13Z)-hexadecadienal. Dosages of 10 and 100 ng of the 4-component blend produced higher levels of source location than dosages of 1 and 1,000 ng.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s10886-010-9799-x) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Lepidoptera; Pyralidae; (11Z,13Z)-hexadecadienal; (3Z,6Z,9Z,12Z,15Z)-tricosapentaene; (11Z,13Z)-hexadecadien-1-ol; (11Z,13E)-hexadecadien-1-ol
Many behavioral responses to odors are synergistic, particularly in insects. In beetles, synergy often involves a pheromone and a plant odor, and pest management relies on them for the use of combined lures. To investigate olfactory synergy mechanisms, we need to distinguish synergistic effects from additive ones, when all components of the mixture are active.
As versatile tools and procedures were not available, we developed a bioassay, and a mathematical model to evaluate synergy between aggregation pheromone (P) and host plant odors (kairomone: K) in the American palm weevil, a pest insect showing enhanced responses to P+K mixtures. Responses to synthetic P and natural K were obtained using a 4-arm olfactometer coupled to a controlled volatile delivery system. We showed that: (1) Response thresholds were ca. 10 and 100 pg/s respectively for P and K. (2) Both stimuli induced similar maximum response. (3) Increasing the dose decreased the response for P to the point of repellence and maintained a maximum response for K. (4) P and K were synergistic over a 100-fold range of doses with experimental responses to P+K mixtures greater than the ones predicted assuming additive effects. Responses close to maximum were associated with the mixture amounts below the response threshold for both P and K.
These results confirm the role of olfactory synergy in optimizing active host-plant localization by phytophagous insects. Our evaluation procedure can be generalized to test synergistic or inhibitory integrated responses of various odor mixtures for various insects.
Animals typically perceive natural odor cues in their olfactory environment as a complex mixture of chemically diverse components. In insects, the initial representation of an odor mixture occurs in the first olfactory center of the brain, the antennal lobe (AL). The contribution of single neurons to the processing of complex mixtures in insects, and in particular moths, is still largely unknown. Using a novel multicomponent stimulus system to equilibrate component and mixture concentrations according to vapor pressure, we performed intracellular recordings of projection and interneurons in an attempt to quantitatively characterize mixture representation and integration properties of single AL neurons in the moth. We found that the fine spatiotemporal representation of 2–7 component mixtures among single neurons in the AL revealed a highly combinatorial, non-linear process for coding host mixtures presumably shaped by the AL network: 82% of mixture responding projection neurons and local interneurons showed non-linear spike frequencies in response to a defined host odor mixture, exhibiting an array of interactions including suppression, hypoadditivity, and synergism. Our results indicate that odor mixtures are represented by each cell as a unique combinatorial representation, and there is no general rule by which the network computes the mixture in comparison to single components. On the single neuron level, we show that those differences manifest in a variety of parameters, including the spatial location, frequency, latency, and temporal pattern of the response kinetics.
odor processing; network; intracellular; electrophysiological recording; single cell
We present evidence for two behaviors influenced by intact, vegetative plant odor — upwind flight and abdomen curling — in female Manduca sexta and demonstrate the influence of the age and mating status of the moths on these behaviors. We compared the behavioral responses of laboratory-reared M. sexta. of discrete ages and physiological states (2,3, and 4 day old for virgin; 2 and 3 day old for mated) as individual moths flew upwind in a flight tunnel to a source of hostplant volatiles. We monitored odor-modulated flight and abdomen curling in the presence of volatiles released by potted hostplants. Mated 3 day old females exhibited the highest incidence of odor-modulated flight and abdomen curling. Similarly, as virgin moths aged, a greater percentage of the individuals displayed odor-modulated flight patterns and abdomen curling. In contrast, younger virgin moths exhibited high levels of abdomen curling only after contact with the plant.
Manduca sexta; moths; flight; oviposition; hostplant volatiles
Each down stroke of an insect's wings accelerates axial airflow over the antennae. Modeling studies suggest that this can greatly enhance penetration of air and air-born odorants through the antennal sensilla thereby periodically increasing odorant-receptor interactions. Do these periodic changes result in entrainment of neural responses in the antenna and antennal lobe (AL)? Does this entrainment affect olfactory acuity? To address these questions, we monitored antennal and AL responses in the moth Manduca sexta while odorants were pulsed at frequencies from 10–72 Hz, encompassing the natural wingbeat frequency. Power spectral density (PSD) analysis was used to identify entrainment of neural activity. Statistical analysis of PSDs indicates that the antennal nerve tracked pulsed odor up to 30 Hz. Furthermore, at least 50% of AL local field potentials (LFPs) and between 7–25% of unitary spiking responses also tracked pulsed odor up to 30 Hz in a frequency-locked manner. Application of bicuculline (200 μM) abolished pulse tracking in both LFP and unitary responses suggesting that GABAA receptor activation is necessary for pulse tracking within the AL. Finally, psychophysical measures of odor detection establish that detection thresholds are lowered when odor is pulsed at 20 Hz. These results suggest that AL networks can respond to the oscillatory dynamics of stimuli such as those imposed by the wing beat in a manner analogous to mammalian sniffing.
olfaction; oscillations; synchrony; GABA; antennal lobe; olfactory bulb; sniffing; sensory sampling
Most animals including insects rely on olfaction to find their mating partners. In moths, males are attracted by female-produced sex pheromones inducing stereotyped sexual behavior. The behaviorally relevant olfactory information is processed in the primary olfactory centre, the antennal lobe (AL). Evidence is now accumulating that modulation of sex-linked behavioral output occurs through neuronal plasticity via the action of hormones and/or catecholamines. A G-protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) binding to 20-hydroxyecdysone, the main insect steroid hormone, and dopamine, has been identified in Drosophila (DmDopEcR), and was suggested to modulate neuronal signaling. In the male moth Agrotis ipsilon, the behavioral and central nervous responses to pheromone are age-dependent. To further unveil the mechanisms of this olfactory plasticity, we searched for DopEcR and tested its potential role in the behavioral response to sex pheromone in A. ipsilon males. Our results show that A. ipsilon DopEcR (named AipsDopEcR) is predominantly expressed in the nervous system. The corresponding protein was detected immunohistochemically in the ALs and higher brain centers including the mushroom bodies. Moreover, AipsDopEcR expression increased with age. Using a strategy of RNA interference, we also show that silencing of AipsDopEcR inhibited the behavioral response to sex pheromone in wind tunnel experiments. Altogether our results indicate that this GPCR is involved in the expression of sexual behavior in the male moth, probably by modulating the central nervous processing of sex pheromone through the action of one or both of its ligands.
Mammals can perceive and discriminate myriad volatile chemicals as having a distinct odor. Odorants are initially detected by odorant receptors (ORs) on olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs) in the nose. In the mouse, each OSN expresses one of ∼1000 different OR genes. Although OSNs and their expressed ORs constitute the fundamental units of sensory input to the brain, a comprehensive understanding of how they encode odor identities is still lacking. To gain a broader and more detailed understanding of odorant recognition and odor coding at this level, we tested the responses of 3000 mouse OSNs to 125 odorants with diverse structures and perceived odors. These studies revealed extraordinary diversity, but also bias, in odorant recognition by the OSN, and thus OR, repertoire. They indicate that most OSNs are narrowly tuned to detect a subset of odorants with related structures and often related odors, but that the repertoire also includes broadly tuned components. Strikingly, the vast majority of odorants activated a unique set of OSNs, usually two or more in combination. The resulting combinatorial codes varied in size among odorants and sometimes contained both narrowly and broadly tuned components. While many OSNs recognized multiple odorants, some appeared specific for a given pheromone or other animal-associated compound, or for one or more odorants with a particular odor quality, raising the possibility that signals derived from some OSNs and ORs might elicit an innate behavior or convey a specific odor quality.