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1.  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
2.  Antennal carboxylesterases in a moth, structural and functional diversity 
Pheromone-degrading enzymes (PDEs) are supposed to be involved in the signal inactivation step within the olfactory sensilla of insects by quickly degrading pheromone molecules. Because esters are widespread insect pheromone components, PDEs belonging to the carboxylesterase (CCE) family have been the most studied. However, only two CCEs were both identified at the molecular level and functionally characterized as PDEs until recently. In the pest moth Spodoptera littoralis, we have identified an unsuspected diversity of antennal CCEs, with a total number of 30 genes. Two CCEs, enriched in antennae and belonging to distinct clades, were shown to present different substrate specificities toward pheromone and plant compounds. A same CCE was also shown to efficiently degrade both pheromone and plant components. Our results suggest that the structural evolution of antennal CCEs reflects their functional diversity and that a complex set of CCE-mediated reactions take place is the olfactory organs of moths.
PMCID: PMC3419116  PMID: 22896794
lepidoptera; noctuidae; olfaction; carboxylesterase; odorant-degrading enzymes; pheromone
3.  An antennal carboxylesterase from Drosophila melanogaster, esterase 6, is a candidate odorant-degrading enzyme toward food odorants 
Reception of odorant molecules within insect olfactory organs involves several sequential steps, including their transport through the sensillar lymph, interaction with the respective sensory receptors, and subsequent inactivation. Odorant-degrading enzymes (ODEs) putatively play a role in signal dynamics by rapid degradation of odorants in the vicinity of the receptors, but this hypothesis is mainly supported by in vitro results. We have recently shown that an extracellular carboxylesterase, esterase-6 (EST-6), is involved in the physiological and behavioral dynamics of the response of Drosophila melanogaster to its volatile pheromone ester, cis-vaccenyl acetate. However, as the expression pattern of the Est-6 gene in the antennae is not restricted to the pheromone responding sensilla, we tested here if EST-6 could play a broader function in the antennae. We found that recombinant EST-6 is able to efficiently hydrolyse several volatile esters that would be emitted by its natural food in vitro. Electrophysiological comparisons of mutant Est-6 null flies and a control strain (on the same genetic background) showed that the dynamics of the antennal response to these compounds is influenced by EST-6, with the antennae of the null mutants showing prolonged activity in response to them. Antennal responses to the strongest odorant, pentyl acetate, were then studied in more detail, showing that the repolarization dynamics were modified even at low doses but without modification of the detection threshold. Behavioral choice experiments with pentyl acetate also showed differences between genotypes; attraction to this compound was observed at a lower dose among the null than control flies. As EST-6 is able to degrade various bioactive odorants emitted by food and plays a role in the response to these compounds, we hypothesize a role as an ODE for this enzyme toward food volatiles.
PMCID: PMC4633494  PMID: 26594178
carboxylesterase; olfaction; odorant-degrading enzyme; Drosophila melanogaster; enzyme activity assays; electroantennogram; behavior
4.  Transcriptome and expression profiling analysis link patterns of gene expression to antennal responses in Spodoptera litura 
BMC Genomics  2015;16(1):269.
The study of olfaction is key to understanding the interaction of insects with their environment and provides opportunities to develop novel tactics for control of pest species. Recent developments in transcriptomic approaches enable the molecular basis of olfaction to be studied even in species with limited genomic information. Here we use transcriptome and expression profiling analysis to characterize the antennal transcriptome of the noctuid moth and polyphagous pest Spodoptera litura.
We identify 74 candidate genes involved in odor detection and recognition, encoding 26 ORs, 21 OBPs, 18 CSPs and 9 IRs. We examine their expression levels in both sexes and seek evidence for their function by relating their expression with levels of EAG response in male and female antennae to 58 host and non-host plant volatiles and sex pheromone components. The majority of olfactory genes showed sex-biased expression, usually male-biased in ORs. A link between OR gene expression and antennal responses to odors was evident, a third of the compounds tested evoking a sex-biased response, in every case also male-biased. Two candidate pheromone receptors, OR14 and OR23 were especially strongly expressed and male-biased and we suggest that these may respond to the two female sex pheromone components of S. litura, Z9E11-14:OAc and Z9E12-14:OAc, which evoked strongly male-biased EAG responses.
Our results provide the molecular basis for elucidating the olfactory profile of moths and the sexual divergence of their behavior and could enable the targeting of particular genes, and behaviors for pest management.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12864-015-1375-x) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4502548  PMID: 25887537
Olfactory receptor; RT-qPCR; Electroantennogram; Sex-biased expression; Sex pheromone; Plant volatiles
5.  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
6.  Identification of Putative Carboxylesterase and Glutathione S-transferase Genes from the Antennae of the Chilo suppressalis (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae) 
Journal of Insect Science  2015;15(1):103.
In insects, rapid degradation of odorants in antennae is extremely important for the sensitivity of olfactory receptor neurons. Odorant degradation in insect antennae is mediated by multiple enzymes, especially the carboxylesterases (CXEs) and glutathione S-transferases (GSTs). The Asiatic rice borer, Chilo suppressalis, is an economically important lepidopteran pest which causes great economic damage to cultivated rice crops in many Asian countries. In this study, we identified 19 putative CXE and 16 GST genes by analyzing previously constructed antennal transcriptomes of C. suppressalis. BLASTX best hit results showed that these genes are most homologous to their respective orthologs in other lepidopteran species. Phylogenetic analyses revealed that these CXE and GST genes were clustered into various clades. Reverse-transcription quantitative polymerase chain reaction assays showed that three CXE genes (CsupCXE8, CsupCXE13, and CsupCXE18) are antennae-enriched. These genes are candidates for involvement in odorant degradation. Unexpectedly, none of the GST genes were found to be antennae-specific. Our results pave the way for future researches of the odorant degradation mechanism of C. suppressalis at the molecular level.
PMCID: PMC4677501  PMID: 26198868
Chilo suppressalis; odorant-degrading enzyme; phylogenetic analysis; expression pattern
7.  Identification and Characterization of an Antennae-Specific Aldehyde Oxidase from the Navel Orangeworm 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e67794.
Antennae-specific odorant-degrading enzymes (ODEs) are postulated to inactivate odorant molecules after they convey their signal. Different classes of insect ODEs are specific to esters, alcohols, and aldehydes – the major functional groups of female-produced, hydrophobic sex pheromones from moth species. Esterases that rapidly inactive acetate and other esters have been well-studied, but less is known about aldehyde oxidases (AOXs). Here we report cloning of an aldehyde oxidase, AtraAOX2, from the antennae of the navel orangeworm (NOW), Amyelois transitella, and the first activity characterization of a recombinant insect AOX. AtraAOX2 gene spans 3,813 bp and encodes a protein with 1,270 amino acid residues. AtraAOX2 cDNA was expressed in baculovirus-infected insect Sf21 cells as a ≈280 kDa homodimer with 140 kDa subunits. Recombinant AtraAOX2 degraded Z11Z13–16Ald and plant volatile aldehydes as substrates. However, as expected for aldehyde oxidases, recombinant AtraAOX2 did not show specificity for Z11Z13–16Ald, the main constituent of the sex pheromone, but showed high activity for plant volatile aldehydes. Our data suggest AtraAOX2 might be involved in degradation of a diversity of aldehydes including sex pheromones, plant-derived semiochemicals, and chemical cues for oviposition sites. Additionally, AtraAOX2 could protect the insect's olfactory system from xenobiotics, including pesticides that might reach the sensillar lymph surrounding the olfactory receptor neurons.
PMCID: PMC3691121  PMID: 23826341
8.  Identification of genes expressed in the sex pheromone gland of the black cutworm Agrotis ipsilon with putative roles in sex pheromone biosynthesis and transport 
BMC Genomics  2013;14:636.
One of the challenges in insect chemical ecology is to understand how insect pheromones are synthesised, detected and degraded. Genome wide survey by comparative sequencing and gene specific expression profiling provide rich resources for this challenge. A. ipsilon is a destructive pest of many crops and further characterization of the genes involved in pheromone biosynthesis and transport could offer potential targets for disruption of their chemical communication and for crop protection.
Here we report 454 next-generation sequencing of the A. ipsilon pheromone gland transcriptome, identification and expression profiling of genes putatively involved in pheromone production, transport and degradation. A total of 23473 unigenes were obtained from the transcriptome analysis, 86% of which were A. ipsilon specific. 42 transcripts encoded enzymes putatively involved in pheromone biosynthesis, of which 15 were specifically, or mainly, expressed in the pheromone glands at 5 to 120-fold higher levels than in the body. Two transcripts encoding for a fatty acid synthase and a desaturase were highly abundant in the transcriptome and expressed more than 40-fold higher in the glands than in the body. The transcripts encoding for 2 acetyl-CoA carboxylases, 1 fatty acid synthase, 2 desaturases, 3 acyl-CoA reductases, 2 alcohol oxidases, 2 aldehyde reductases and 3 acetyltransferases were expressed at a significantly higher level in the pheromone glands than in the body. 17 esterase transcripts were not gland-specific and 7 of these were expressed highly in the antennae. Seven transcripts encoding odorant binding proteins (OBPs) and 8 encoding chemosensory proteins (CSPs) were identified. Two CSP transcripts (AipsCSP2, AipsCSP8) were highly abundant in the pheromone gland transcriptome and this was confirmed by qRT-PCR. One OBP (AipsOBP6) were pheromone gland-enriched and three OBPs (AipsOBP1, AipsOBP2 and AipsOBP4) were antennal-enriched. Based on these studies we proposed possible A. ipsilon biosynthesis pathways for major and minor sex pheromone components.
Our study identified genes potentially involved in sex pheromone biosynthesis and transport in A. ipsilon. The identified genes are likely to play essential roles in sex pheromone production, transport and degradation and could serve as targets to interfere with pheromone release. The identification of highly expressed CSPs and OBPs in the pheromone gland suggests that they may play a role in the binding, transport and release of sex pheromones during sex pheromone production in A. ipsilon and other Lepidoptera insects.
PMCID: PMC3849270  PMID: 24053512
9.  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
10.  An Expressed Sequence Tag collection from the male antennae of the Noctuid moth Spodoptera littoralis: a resource for olfactory and pheromone detection research 
BMC Genomics  2011;12:86.
Nocturnal insects such as moths are ideal models to study the molecular bases of olfaction that they use, among examples, for the detection of mating partners and host plants. Knowing how an odour generates a neuronal signal in insect antennae is crucial for understanding the physiological bases of olfaction, and also could lead to the identification of original targets for the development of olfactory-based control strategies against herbivorous moth pests. Here, we describe an Expressed Sequence Tag (EST) project to characterize the antennal transcriptome of the noctuid pest model, Spodoptera littoralis, and to identify candidate genes involved in odour/pheromone detection.
By targeting cDNAs from male antennae, we biased gene discovery towards genes potentially involved in male olfaction, including pheromone reception. A total of 20760 ESTs were obtained from a normalized library and were assembled in 9033 unigenes. 6530 were annotated based on BLAST analyses and gene prediction software identified 6738 ORFs. The unigenes were compared to the Bombyx mori proteome and to ESTs derived from Lepidoptera transcriptome projects. We identified a large number of candidate genes involved in odour and pheromone detection and turnover, including 31 candidate chemosensory receptor genes, but also genes potentially involved in olfactory modulation.
Our project has generated a large collection of antennal transcripts from a Lepidoptera. The normalization process, allowing enrichment in low abundant genes, proved to be particularly relevant to identify chemosensory receptors in a species for which no genomic data are available. Our results also suggest that olfactory modulation can take place at the level of the antennae itself. These EST resources will be invaluable for exploring the mechanisms of olfaction and pheromone detection in S. littoralis, and for ultimately identifying original targets to fight against moth herbivorous pests.
PMCID: PMC3045336  PMID: 21276261
11.  Functional Characterizations of Chemosensory Proteins of the Alfalfa Plant Bug Adelphocoris lineolatus Indicate Their Involvement in Host Recognition 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e42871.
Insect chemosensory proteins (CSPs) have been proposed to capture and transport hydrophobic chemicals from air to olfactory receptors in the lymph of antennal chemosensilla. They may represent a new class of soluble carrier protein involved in insect chemoreception. However, their specific functional roles in insect chemoreception have not been fully elucidated. In this study, we report for the first time three novel CSP genes (AlinCSP1-3) of the alfalfa plant bug Adelphocoris lineolatus (Goeze) by screening the antennal cDNA library. The qRT-PCR examinations of the transcript levels revealed that all three genes (AlinCSP1-3) are mainly expressed in the antennae. Interestingly, these CSP genes AlinCSP1-3 are also highly expressed in the 5th instar nymphs, suggesting a proposed function of these CSP proteins (AlinCSP1-3) in the olfactory reception and in maintaining particular life activities into the adult stage. Using bacterial expression system, the three CSP proteins were expressed and purified. For the first time we characterized the types of sensilla in the antennae of the plant bug using scanning electron microscopy (SEM). Immunocytochemistry analysis indicated that the CSP proteins were expressed in the pheromone-sensitive sensilla trichodea and general odorant-sensitive sensilla basiconica, providing further evidence of their involvement in chemoreception. The antennal activity of 55 host-related semiochemicals and sex pheromone compounds in the host location and mate selection behavior of A. lineolatus was investigated using electroantennogram (EAG), and the binding affinities of these chemicals to the three CSPs (AlinCSP1-3) were measured using fluorescent binding assays. The results showed several host-related semiochemicals, (Z)-3-hexen-1-ol, (E)-2-hexen-1-al and valeraldehyde, have a high binding affinity with AlinCSP1-3 and can elicit significant high EAG responses of A. lineolatus antennae. Our studies indicate the three antennae-biased CSPs may mediate host recognition in the alfalfa plant bug A. lineolatus.
PMCID: PMC3416781  PMID: 22900060
12.  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
13.  Plant odorants interfere with detection of sex pheromone signals by male Heliothis virescens 
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.
PMCID: PMC3465774  PMID: 23060749
pheromone detection; antennal lobe; pheromone receptor; pheromone binding protein; olfaction
14.  The Peripheral Olfactory Repertoire of the Lightbrown Apple Moth, Epiphyas postvittana 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(5):e0128596.
The lightbrown apple moth, Epiphyas postvittana is an increasingly global pest of horticultural crops. Like other moths, E. postvittana relies on olfactory cues to locate mates and oviposition sites. To detect these cues, moths have evolved families of genes encoding elements of the peripheral olfactory reception system, including odor carriers, receptors and degrading enzymes. Here we undertake a transcriptomic approach to identify members of these families expressed in the adult antennae of E. postvittana, describing open reading frames encoding 34 odorant binding proteins, 13 chemosensory proteins, 70 odorant receptors, 19 ionotropic receptors, nine gustatory receptors, two sensory neuron membrane proteins, 27 carboxylesterases, 20 glutathione-S-transferases, 49 cytochrome p450s and 18 takeout proteins. For the odorant receptors, quantitative RT-PCR corroborated RNAseq count data on steady state transcript levels. Of the eight odorant receptors that group phylogenetically with pheromone receptors from other moths, two displayed significant male-biased expression patterns, one displayed significant female-biased expression pattern and five were expressed equally in the antennae of both sexes. In addition, we found two male-biased odorant receptors that did not group with previously described pheromone receptors. This suite of olfaction-related genes provides a substantial resource for the functional characterization of this signal transduction system and the development of odor-mediated control strategies for horticultural pests.
PMCID: PMC4446339  PMID: 26017144
15.  Annotation and expression of carboxylesterases in the silkworm, Bombyx mori 
BMC Genomics  2009;10:553.
Carboxylesterase is a multifunctional superfamily and ubiquitous in all living organisms, including animals, plants, insects, and microbes. It plays important roles in xenobiotic detoxification, and pheromone degradation, neurogenesis and regulating development. Previous studies mainly used Dipteran Drosophila and mosquitoes as model organisms to investigate the roles of the insect COEs in insecticide resistance. However, genome-wide characterization of COEs in phytophagous insects and comparative analysis remain to be performed.
Based on the newly assembled genome sequence, 76 putative COEs were identified in Bombyx mori. Relative to other Dipteran and Hymenopteran insects, alpha-esterases were significantly expanded in the silkworm. Genomics analysis suggested that BmCOEs showed chromosome preferable distribution and 55% of which were tandem arranged. Sixty-one BmCOEs were transcribed based on cDNA/ESTs and microarray data. Generally, most of the COEs showed tissue specific expressions and expression level between male and female did not display obvious differences. Three main patterns could be classified, i.e. midgut-, head and integument-, and silk gland-specific expressions. Midgut is the first barrier of xenobiotics peroral toxicity, in which COEs may be involved in eliminating secondary metabolites of mulberry leaves and contaminants of insecticides in diet. For head and integument-class, most of the members were homologous to odorant-degrading enzyme (ODE) and antennal esterase. RT-PCR verified that the ODE-like esterases were also highly expressed in larvae antenna and maxilla, and thus they may play important roles in degradation of plant volatiles or other xenobiotics.
B. mori has the largest number of insect COE genes characterized to date. Comparative genomic analysis suggested that the gene expansion mainly occurred in silkworm alpha-esterases. Expression evidence indicated that the expanded genes were specifically expressed in midgut, integument and head, implying that these genes may have important roles in detoxifying secondary metabolites of mulberry leaves, contaminants in diet, and odorants. Our results provide some new insights into functions and evolutionary characteristics of COEs in phytophagous insects.
PMCID: PMC2784812  PMID: 19930670
16.  Fine Structure of Antennal Sensilla of Paysandisia archon and Electrophysiological Responses to Volatile Compounds Associated with Host Palms 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(4):e0124607.
Paysandisia archon (Lepidoptera: Castniidae) is a serious pest of palm trees. A comprehensive knowledge of the insect olfactory system is essential for the development of efficient semiochemical-based control methods. The olfactory sensilla are located particularly on the antennae, and these can detect plant volatiles that provide important cues for the insects in the search for their host plants. To date, the fine structure of P. archon antennal sensilla studies and their role in host-plant perception have not been investigated in great detail. Using light microscopy and scanning and transmission electron microscopy, the antennae of both sexes of P. archon are described here in detail, according to the different types, quantities and distributions of the sensilla. Six types of sensilla were identified. The most widespread are sensilla trichoidea, sensilla basiconica and sensilla auricilica, which are associated with olfactory function. These have cuticular shafts characterised by numerous pores, and they are innervated by two or three sensory neurons. Sensilla coeloconica, sensilla chaetica and sensilla ampullacea are associated with olfactory or olfactory-thermoreception, mechano-gustatory, and thermo-hygroreception functions, respectively. Moreover, the role of P. archon antennae in locating of the host palms was evaluated using electroantennograms, to monitor responses to ester and terpene compounds previously identified as volatiles of damaged/fermenting palm tissues. P. archon showed responses to all of the synthetic chemicals tested, with greater responses in the females, providing a significant sex*dose effect. Among the compounds tested, ethyl isobutyrate elicited the strongest antenna responses. The fine structure of the cuticular and cellular components of the P. archon antenna sensory equipment is described for the first time. The results of this study form an important starting point and complement physiological and behavioural studies, to provide valuable information of practical importance for the development of efficient semiochemical-based control methods.
PMCID: PMC4408066  PMID: 25905711
17.  Molecular Characterization and Differential Expression of Olfactory Genes in the Antennae of the Black Cutworm Moth Agrotis ipsilon 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(8):e103420.
Insects use their sensitive and selective olfactory system to detect outside chemical odorants, such as female sex pheromones and host plant volatiles. Several groups of olfactory proteins participate in the odorant detection process, including odorant binding proteins (OBPs), chemosensory proteins (CSPs), odorant receptors (ORs), ionotropic receptors (IRs) and sensory neuron membrane proteins (SNMPs). The identification and functional characterization of these olfactory proteins will enhance our knowledge of the molecular basis of insect chemoreception. In this study, we report the identification and differential expression profiles of these olfactory genes in the black cutworm moth Agrotis ipsilon. In total, 33 OBPs, 12 CSPs, 42 ORs, 24 IRs, 2 SNMPs and 1 gustatory receptor (GR) were annotated from the A. ipsilon antennal transcriptomes, and further RT-PCR and RT-qPCR revealed that 22 OBPs, 3 CSPs, 35 ORs, 14 IRs and the 2 SNMPs are uniquely or primarily expressed in the male and female antennae. Furthermore, one OBP (AipsOBP6) and one CSP (AipsCSP2) were exclusively expressed in the female sex pheromone gland. These antennae-enriched OBPs, CSPs, ORs, IRs and SNMPs were suggested to be responsible for pheromone and general odorant detection and thus could be meaningful target genes for us to study their biological functions in vivo and in vitro.
PMCID: PMC4118888  PMID: 25083706
18.  Identification and Differential Expression of a Candidate Sex Pheromone Receptor in Natural Populations of Spodoptera litura 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(6):e0131407.
Olfaction is primarily mediated by highly specific olfactory receptors (ORs), a subfamily of which are the pheromone receptors that play a key role in sexual communication and can contribute to reproductive isolation. Here we cloned and identified an olfactory receptor, SlituOR3 (Genbank NO. JN835270), from Spodoptera litura, to be the candidate pheromone receptor. It exhibited male-biased expression in the antennae, where they were localized at the base of sensilla trichoidea. Conserved orthologues of these receptors were found amongst known pheromone receptors within the Lepidoptera, and SlituOR3 were placed amongst a clade of candidate pheromone receptors in a phylogeny tree of insect ORs. SlituOR3 is required for the EAG responses to both Z9E11-14:OAc and Z9E12-14:OAc SlituOR3 showed differential expression in S. litura populations attracted to traps baited with a series of sex pheromone blends composed of different ratios of (9Z,11E)-tetradecadienyl acetate (Z9E11-14:OAc) and (9Z,12E)-tetradecadienyl acetate (Z9E12-14:OAc). The changes in the expression level of SlitOR3 and antennal responses after SlitOR3 silencing suggested that SlitOR3 is required for the sex pheromone signaling. We infer that variation in transcription levels of olfactory receptors may modulate sex pheromone perception in male moths and could affect both of pest control and monitoring efficiency by pheromone application after long time mass trapping with one particular ratio of blend in the field.
PMCID: PMC4488349  PMID: 26126192
19.  Molecular Characterization, Expression Pattern, and Ligand-Binding Property of Three Odorant Binding Protein Genes from Dendrolimus tabulaeformis 
Journal of Chemical Ecology  2014;40(4):396-406.
Odorant binding proteins (OBPs) play important roles in insect olfactory processes. The Chinese pine caterpillar moth, Dendrolimus tabulaeformis (Lepidoptera, Lasiocampidae) is a serious economic pest in China, and the pheromones of this species have been identified to monitor their presence. However, the molecular mechanisms by which D. tabulaeformis perceive pheromones and host volatiles remain unknown. In this study, we identified and characterized three new OBPs, including one pheromone binding protein (PBP1) and two general odor binding proteins (GOBPs), from antennal cDNA of D. tabulaeformis. The deduced amino acid sequences of DtabPBP1, DtabGOBP1, and DtabGOBP2 revealed mature proteins of 140, 147, and 140 amino acids, respectively. Each has six cysteine residues in conserved positions relative to other known OBPs. Amino-acid alignments indicated that the two GOBPs are more conserved (DtabGOBP1 is 52.9–67.4 % identical to orthologs from other Lepidoptera, and DtabGOBP2 is 55.2–81.8 % identical) than the PBP (32.5–46.0 %). Real-time PCR indicated tissue- and sex-specific expression patterns of the three genes. DtabPBP1 was mainly expressed in the antennae of males, whereas female antennae had only 1.09 % the expression in male antennae. Both DtabGOBP1 and DtabGOBP2 were more highly expressed in antennae than in other tissues, while DtabGOBP1 was more abundant in male antennae and DtabGOBP2 in female antennae. In addition, the binding specificities of the three proteins were investigated, and all three OBPs exhibited high binding affinities for the pheromone component (5Z,7E)-5,7-dodecadien-1-yl propionate (Z5,E7-12:OPr). This suggests a role in binding pheromone for GOBPs, as well as PBP1, in D. tabulaeformis.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s10886-014-0412-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4008786  PMID: 24728949
Pheromone binding proteins; General odorant binding proteins; Real-time PCR; Fluorescence competitive binding assay; Forest insect; Economic pest; Lepidoptera
20.  Identification of Odor-Processing Genes in the Emerald Ash Borer, Agrilus planipennis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e56555.
Insects rely on olfaction to locate food, mates, and suitable oviposition sites for successful completion of their life cycle. Agrilus planipennis Fairmaire (emerald ash borer) is a serious invasive insect pest that has killed tens of millions of North American ash (Fraxinus spp) trees and threatens the very existence of the genus Fraxinus. Adult A. planipennis are attracted to host volatiles and conspecifics; however, to date no molecular knowledge exists on olfaction in A. planipennis. Hence, we undertook an antennae-specific transcriptomic study to identify the repertoire of odor processing genes involved in A. planipennis olfaction.
Methodology and Principal Findings
We acquired 139,085 Roche/454 GS FLX transcriptomic reads that were assembled into 30,615 high quality expressed sequence tags (ESTs), including 3,249 isotigs and 27,366 non-isotigs (contigs and singletons). Intriguingly, the majority of the A. planipennis antennal transcripts (59.72%) did not show similarity with sequences deposited in the non-redundant database of GenBank, potentially representing novel genes. Functional annotation and KEGG analysis revealed pathways associated with signaling and detoxification. Several odor processing genes (9 odorant binding proteins, 2 odorant receptors, 1 sensory neuron membrane protein and 134 odorant/xenobiotic degradation enzymes, including cytochrome P450s, glutathione-S-transferases; esterases, etc.) putatively involved in olfaction processes were identified. Quantitative PCR of candidate genes in male and female A. planipennis in different developmental stages revealed developmental- and sex-biased expression patterns.
Conclusions and Significance
The antennal ESTs derived from A. planipennis constitute a rich molecular resource for the identification of genes potentially involved in the olfaction process of A. planipennis. These findings should help in understanding the processing of antennally-active compounds (e.g. 7-epi-sesquithujene) previously identified in this serious invasive pest.
PMCID: PMC3570424  PMID: 23424668
21.  Concurrent modulation of neuronal and behavioural olfactory responses to sex and host plant cues in a male moth 
Mating has profound effects on animal physiology and behaviour, not only in females but also in males, which we show here for olfactory responses. In cotton leafworm moths, Spodoptera littoralis, odour-mediated attraction to sex pheromone and plant volatiles are modulated after mating, producing a behavioural response that matches the physiological condition of the male insect. Unmated males are attracted by upwind flight to sex pheromone released by calling females, as well as to volatiles of lilac flowers and green leaves of the host plant cotton, signalling adult food and mating sites, respectively. Mating temporarily abolishes male attraction to females and host plant odour, but does not diminish attraction to flowers. This behavioural modulation is correlated with a response modulation in the olfactory system, as shown by electro-physiological recordings from antennae and by functional imaging of the antennal lobe, using natural odours and synthetic compounds. An effect of mating on the olfactory responses to pheromone and cotton plant volatiles but not to lilac flowers indicates the presence of functionally independent neural circuits within the olfactory system. Our results indicate that these circuits interconnect and weigh perception of social and habitat odour signals to generate appropriate behavioural responses according to mating state.
PMCID: PMC4286049  PMID: 25621329
olfactory modulation; behaviour; mating; Spodoptera littoralis; electrophysiology; host plant attraction
22.  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
23.  Genomic analysis of carboxyl/cholinesterase genes in the silkworm Bombyx mori 
BMC Genomics  2010;11:377.
Carboxyl/cholinesterases (CCEs) have pivotal roles in dietary detoxification, pheromone or hormone degradation and neurodevelopment. The recent completion of genome projects in various insect species has led to the identification of multiple CCEs with unknown functions. Here, we analyzed the phylogeny, expression and genomic distribution of 69 putative CCEs in the silkworm, Bombyx mori (Lepidoptera: Bombycidae).
A phylogenetic tree of CCEs in B. mori and other lepidopteran species was constructed. The expression pattern of each B. mori CCE was also investigated by a search of an expressed sequence tag (EST) database, and the relationship between phylogeny and expression was analyzed. A large number of B. mori CCEs were identified from a midgut EST library. CCEs expressed in the midgut formed a cluster in the phylogenetic tree that included not only B. mori genes but also those of other lepidopteran species. The silkworm, and possibly also other lepidopteran species, has a large number of CCEs, and this might be a consequence of the large cluster of midgut CCEs. Investigation of intron-exon organization in B. mori CCEs revealed that their positions and splicing site phases were strongly conserved. Several B. mori CCEs, including juvenile hormone esterase, not only showed clustering in the phylogenetic tree but were also closely located on silkworm chromosomes. We investigated the phylogeny and microsynteny of neuroligins in detail, among many CCEs. Interestingly, we found the evolution of this gene appeared not to be conserved between B. mori and other insect orders.
We analyzed 69 putative CCEs from B. mori. Comparison of these CCEs with other lepidopteran CCEs indicated that they had conserved expression and function in this insect order. The analyses showed that CCEs were unevenly distributed across the genome of B. mori and suggested that neuroligins may have a distinct evolutionary history from other insect order. It is possible that such an uneven genomic distribution and a unique neuroligin evolution are shared with other lepidopteran insects. Our genomic analysis has provided novel information on the CCEs of the silkworm, which will be of value to understanding the biology, physiology and evolution of insect CCEs.
PMCID: PMC3017765  PMID: 20546589
24.  Synthetic pheromones and plant volatiles alter the expression of chemosensory genes in Spodoptera exigua 
Scientific Reports  2015;5:17320.
Pheromone and plant odorants are important for insect mating, foraging food sources and oviposition. To understand the molecular mechanisms regulating pheromone and odorant signaling, we employed qRT-PCR to study the circadian rhythms of ABP, OBP, PBP, and OR gene expression in the beet armyworm, Spodoptera exigua and their responses after a pre-exposure to sex pheromone compounds or plant volatiles. The neuronal responses of male S. exigua to 20 chemical compounds were recorded at three specific time periods using the electroantennogram. The results showed a circadian rhythm in the expression profiles of some chemosensory genes in the antennae similar to their behavioral rhythm. The expression profiles of OR3, OR6, OR11, OR13, OR16, OR18, Orco, ABP2, OBP1, OBP7, and PBP1, and EAG responses to chemical compounds, as well as their circadian rhythm were significantly affected after exposure to synthetic sex pheromones and plant volatiles. These findings provide the first evidence that the gene expression of chemosensory genes and olfactory sensitivity to sex pheromones are affected by pre-exposing insects to pheromone compounds and plant volatiles. It helps to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying pheromone activity, and the application of sex pheromones and plant volatiles in mating disruption or mass trapping.
PMCID: PMC4661447  PMID: 26611815
25.  Ultrastructure of antennal sensilla of four skipper butterflies in Parnara sp. and Pelopidas sp. (Lepidoptera, Hesperiidae) 
ZooKeys  2014;17-27.
Most species of Parnara and Pelopidas (Hesperiidae) are important pests of rice. In this study, the antennal morphology, types of sensilla, and their distribution of four skipper butterflies, including Parnara guttata (Bremer & Grey), Pa. bada (Moore), Pelopidas mathias (Fabricius) and Pe. agna (Moore), were observed using a scanning electron microscope. Six distinct morphological types of sensilla were found on the antennae of all of these species: sensilla squamiformia, sensilla trichodea, sensilla chaetica, sensilla auricillica, sensilla coeloconica, and Böhm sensilla. The sensilla trichodea are the most abundant sensilla among the four skipper butterflies, and the sensilla auricillica are confirmed on the antennae of butterflies for the second time. In addition, the possible functions of these sensilla are discussed in the light of previously reported lepidopteran insects, which may provide useful information for further study of the function of these antennal sensilla and for related pests control by applying sex pheromones.
PMCID: PMC4023232  PMID: 24843250
Lepidoptera; Hesperiidae; morphology; fine structure

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