Carboxyl/cholinesterases (CCEs) are highly diversified in insects. These enzymes have a broad range of proposed functions, in neuro/developmental processes, dietary detoxification, insecticide resistance or hormone/pheromone degradation. As few functional data are available on purified or recombinant CCEs, the physiological role of most of these enzymes is unknown. Concerning their role in olfaction, only two CCEs able to metabolize sex pheromones have been functionally characterized in insects. These enzymes are only expressed in the male antennae, and secreted into the lumen of the pheromone-sensitive sensilla. CCEs able to hydrolyze other odorants than sex pheromones, such as plant volatiles, have not been identified.
In Spodoptera littoralis, a major crop pest, a diversity of antennal CCEs has been previously identified. We have employed here a combination of molecular biology, biochemistry and electrophysiology approaches to functionally characterize an intracellular CCE, SlCXE10, whose predominant expression in the olfactory sensilla suggested a role in olfaction. A recombinant protein was produced using the baculovirus system and we tested its catabolic properties towards a plant volatile and the sex pheromone components.
We showed that SlCXE10 could efficiently hydrolyze a green leaf volatile and to a lesser extent the sex pheromone components. The transcript level in male antennae was also strongly induced by exposure to this plant odorant. In antennae, SlCXE10 expression was associated with sensilla responding to the sex pheromones and to plant odours. These results suggest that a CCE-based intracellular metabolism of odorants could occur in insect antennae, in addition to the extracellular metabolism occurring within the sensillar lumen. This is the first functional characterization of an Odorant-Degrading Enzyme active towards a host plant volatile.
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.
carboxylesterase; olfaction; odorant-degrading enzyme; Drosophila melanogaster; enzyme activity assays; electroantennogram; behavior
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.
olfactory modulation; behaviour; mating; Spodoptera littoralis; electrophysiology; host plant attraction
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.
lepidoptera; noctuidae; olfaction; carboxylesterase; odorant-degrading enzymes; pheromone
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
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.
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.
carboxylesterase; esterase 6; olfaction; pheromone; signal termination
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.
Chilo suppressalis; odorant-degrading enzyme; phylogenetic analysis; expression pattern
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.
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.
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.
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
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
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12864-015-1375-x) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized
Olfactory receptor; RT-qPCR; Electroantennogram; Sex-biased expression; Sex pheromone; Plant volatiles
To better understand the olfactory mechanisms in a lepidopteran pest model species, the cotton leafworm Spodoptera littoralis, we have recently established a partial transcriptome from adult antennae. Here, we completed this transcriptome using next generation sequencing technologies, namely 454 and Illumina, on both adult antennae and larval tissues, including caterpillar antennae and maxillary palps. All sequences were assembled in 77,643 contigs. Their analysis greatly enriched the repertoire of chemosensory genes in this species, with a total of 57 candidate odorant-binding and chemosensory proteins, 47 olfactory receptors, 6 gustatory receptors and 17 ionotropic receptors. Using RT-PCR, we conducted the first exhaustive comparison of olfactory gene expression between larvae and adults in a lepidopteran species. All the 127 candidate olfactory genes were profiled for expression in male and female adult antennae and in caterpillar antennae and maxillary palps. We found that caterpillars expressed a smaller set of olfactory genes than adults, with a large overlap between these two developmental stages. Two binding proteins appeared to be larvae-specific and two others were adult-specific. Interestingly, comparison between caterpillar antennae and maxillary palps revealed numerous organ-specific transcripts, suggesting the complementary involvement of these two organs in larval chemosensory detection. Adult males and females shared the same set of olfactory transcripts, except two male-specific candidate pheromone receptors, two male-specific and two female-specific odorant-binding proteins. This study identified transcripts that may be important for sex-specific or developmental stage-specific chemosensory behaviors.
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.
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.
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.
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.
•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.
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
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.
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.
The navel orangeworm, Amyelois transitella Walker (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae), is the most serious insect pest of almonds and pistachios in California for which environmentally friendly alternative methods of control — like pheromone-based approaches — are highly desirable. Some constituents of the sex pheromone are unstable and could be replaced with parapheromones, which may be designed on the basis of molecular interaction of pheromones and pheromone-detecting olfactory proteins.
By analyzing extracts from olfactory and non-olfactory tissues, we identified putative olfactory proteins, obtained their N-terminal amino acid sequences by Edman degradation, and used degenerate primers to clone the corresponding cDNAs by SMART RACE. Additionally, we used degenerate primers based on conserved sequences of known proteins to fish out other candidate olfactory genes. We expressed the gene encoding a newly identified pheromone-binding protein, which was analyzed by circular dichroism, fluorescence, and nuclear magnetic resonance, and used in a binding assay to assess affinity to pheromone components.
We have cloned nine cDNAs encoding olfactory proteins from the navel orangeworm, including two pheromone-binding proteins, two general odorant-binding proteins, one chemosensory protein, one glutathione S-transferase, one antennal binding protein X, one sensory neuron membrane protein, and one odorant receptor. Of these, AtraPBP1 is highly enriched in male antennae. Fluorescence, CD and NMR studies suggest a dramatic pH-dependent conformational change, with high affinity to pheromone constituents at neutral pH and no binding at low pH.
Male moths use species-specific sex pheromones to identify and orientate toward conspecific females. Odorant receptors (ORs) for sex pheromone substances have been identified as sex pheromone receptors in various moth species. However, direct in vivo evidence linking the functional role of these ORs with behavioural responses is lacking. In the silkmoth, Bombyx mori, female moths emit two sex pheromone components, bombykol and bombykal, but only bombykol elicits sexual behaviour in male moths. A sex pheromone receptor BmOR1 is specifically tuned to bombykol and is expressed in specialized olfactory receptor neurons (ORNs) in the pheromone sensitive long sensilla trichodea of male silkmoth antennae. Here, we show that disruption of the BmOR1 gene, mediated by transcription activator-like effector nucleases (TALENs), completely removes ORN sensitivity to bombykol and corresponding pheromone-source searching behaviour in male moths. Furthermore, transgenic rescue of BmOR1 restored normal behavioural responses to bombykol. Our results demonstrate that BmOR1 is required for the physiological and behavioural response to bombykol, demonstrating that it is the receptor that mediates sex pheromone responses in male silkmoths. This study provides the first direct evidence that a member of the sex pheromone receptor family in moth species mediates conspecific sex pheromone information for sexual behaviour.
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.
Odorant binding proteins play a crucial role in transporting semiochemicals across the sensillum lymph to olfactory receptors within the insect antennal sensilla. In this study, the general odorant binding protein 2 gene was cloned from the antennae of Loxostege sticticalis, using reverse transcription PCR and rapid amplification of cDNA ends. Recombinant LstiGOBP2 was expressed in Escherichia coli and purified by Ni ion affinity chromatography. Real-time PCR assays indicated that LstiGOBP2 mRNA is expressed mainly in adult antennae, with expression levels differing with developmental age. Ligand-binding experiments using N-phenyl-naphthylamine (1-NPN) as a fluorescent probe demonstrated that the LstiGOBP2 protein has binding affinity to a broad range of odorants. Most importantly, trans-11-tetradecen-1-yl acetate, the pheromone component of Loxostege sticticalis, and trans-2-hexenal and cis-3-hexen-1-ol, the most abundant plant volatiles in essential oils extracted from host plants, had high binding affinities to LstiGOBP2 and elicited strong electrophysiological responses from the antennae of adults.
In insects and other animals, intraspecific communication between individuals of the opposite sex is mediated in part by chemical signals called sex pheromones. In most moth species, male moths rely heavily on species-specific sex pheromones emitted by female moths to identify and orient towards an appropriate mating partner among a large number of sympatric insect species. The silkmoth, Bombyx mori, utilizes the simplest possible pheromone system, in which a single pheromone component, (E, Z)-10,12-hexadecadienol (bombykol), is sufficient to elicit full sexual behavior. We have previously shown that the sex pheromone receptor BmOR1 mediates specific detection of bombykol in the antennae of male silkmoths. However, it is unclear whether the sex pheromone receptor is the minimally sufficient determination factor that triggers initiation of orientation behavior towards a potential mate. Using transgenic silkmoths expressing the sex pheromone receptor PxOR1 of the diamondback moth Plutella xylostella in BmOR1-expressing neurons, we show that the selectivity of the sex pheromone receptor determines the chemical response specificity of sexual behavior in the silkmoth. Bombykol receptor neurons expressing PxOR1 responded to its specific ligand, (Z)-11-hexadecenal (Z11-16:Ald), in a dose-dependent manner. Male moths expressing PxOR1 exhibited typical pheromone orientation behavior and copulation attempts in response to Z11-16:Ald and to females of P. xylostella. Transformation of the bombykol receptor neurons had no effect on their projections in the antennal lobe. These results indicate that activation of bombykol receptor neurons alone is sufficient to trigger full sexual behavior. Thus, a single gene defines behavioral selectivity in sex pheromone communication in the silkmoth. Our findings show that a single molecular determinant can not only function as a modulator of behavior but also as an all-or-nothing initiator of a complex species-specific behavioral sequence.
Like many animal species, moths use chemical signals called sex pheromones to communicate with conspecific individuals of the opposite sex in the context of reproduction. Typically, male moths depend on sex pheromones emitted by conspecific females to identify and locate their mates. Therefore, the behavioral preference of male moths to conspecific pheromones is a critical factor for successful reproduction. Sex pheromone receptor proteins expressed in specialized antennal olfactory receptor neurons reportedly play a central role in sex pheromone discrimination. However, the causal relationship between sex pheromone receptor specificity and behavioral preference remains to be proven. We have addressed this question in a genetically tractable moth species, the silkmoth (Bombyx mori), because this species possesses the simplest possible pheromone system in which a single pheromone substance, bombykol, elicits full sexual behavior. Using transgenic silkmoths expressing a sex pheromone receptor from another moth species, we revealed that solely the chemical specificity of the odorant receptors in bombykol receptor neurons determines the behavioral preference in male silkmoths. Our results show that the initiation of a complex programmed sexual behavior can depend on the properties of a single pheromone receptor gene expressed in a population of olfactory receptor neurons.
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.
Plants under herbivore attack release volatiles that attract natural enemies, and herbivores in turn avoid such plants. Whilst herbivore-induced plant volatile blends appeared to reduce the attractiveness of host plants to herbivores, the volatiles that are key in this process and particularly the way in which deterrence is coded in the olfactory system are largely unknown. Here we demonstrate that herbivore-induced cotton volatiles suppress orientation of the moth Spodoptera littoralis to host plants and mates.
We found that (E)-4,8-dimethyl-1,3,7-nonatriene (DMNT), an induced volatile, is key in herbivore deterrence: DMNT suppressed plant odour- and pheromone-induced behaviours. We then dissected the neurophysiological basis of this interaction. DMNT-responding glomeruli were also activated by other plant compounds, suggesting that S. littoralis possesses no segregated olfactory circuit dedicated exclusively to DMNT. Instead, DMNT suppressed responses to the main pheromone component, (Z)-9-(E)-11-tetradecenyl acetate, and primarily to (Z)-3-hexenyl acetate, a host plant attractant.
Our study shows that olfactory sensory inhibition, which has previously been reported without reference to an animal’s ecology, can be at the core of coding of ecologically relevant odours. As DMNT attracts natural enemies and deters herbivores, it may be useful in the development or enhancement of push-pull strategies for sustainable agriculture.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12915-015-0188-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
(E)-4,8-dimethyl-1,3,7-nonatriene; Herbivore-induced plant volatiles; Suppression; Antennal lobe; Spodoptera littoralis; Oviposition choice; Mating disruption; Olfaction; Orientation