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
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.
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.
In nature the aerial trace of pheromone used by male moths to find a female appears as a train of discontinuous pulses separated by gaps among a complex odorant background constituted of plant volatiles. We investigated the effect of such background odor on behavior and coding of temporal parameters of pheromone pulse trains in the pheromone olfactory receptor neurons of Spodoptera littoralis. Effects of linalool background were tested by measuring walking behavior towards a source of pheromone. While velocity and orientation index did drop when linalool was turned on, both parameters recovered back to pre-background values after 40 s with linalool still present. Photo-ionization detector was used to characterize pulse delivery by our stimulator. The photo-ionization detector signal reached 71% of maximum amplitude at 50 ms pulses and followed the stimulus period at repetition rates up to 10 pulses/s. However, at high pulse rates the concentration of the odorant did not return to base level during inter-pulse intervals. Linalool decreased the intensity and shortened the response of receptor neurons to pulses. High contrast (>10 dB) in firing rate between pulses and inter-pulse intervals was observed for 1 and 4 pulses/s, both with and without background. Significantly more neurons followed the 4 pulses/s pattern when delivered over linalool; at the same time the information content was preserved almost to the control values. Rapid recovery of behavior shows that change of perceived intensity is more important than absolute stimulus intensity. While decreasing the response intensity, background odor preserved the temporal parameters of the specific signal.
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
Mating induces profound physiological changes in a wide range of insects, leading to behavioural adjustments to match the internal state of the animal. Here, we show for the first time, to our knowledge, that a noctuid moth switches its olfactory response from food to egg-laying cues following mating. Unmated females of the cotton leafworm (Spodoptera littoralis) are strongly attracted to lilac flowers (Syringa vulgaris). After mating, attraction to floral odour is abolished and the females fly instead to green-leaf odour of the larval host plant cotton, Gossypium hirsutum. This behavioural switch is owing to a marked change in the olfactory representation of floral and green odours in the primary olfactory centre, the antennal lobe (AL). Calcium imaging, using authentic and synthetic odours, shows that the ensemble of AL glomeruli dedicated to either lilac or cotton odour is selectively up- and downregulated in response to mating. A clear-cut behavioural modulation as a function of mating is a useful substrate for studies of the neural mechanisms underlying behavioural decisions. Modulation of odour-driven behaviour through concerted regulation of odour maps contributes to our understanding of state-dependent choice and host shifts in insect herbivores.
olfaction; mating; modulation; host finding; herbivore; Spodoptera littoralis
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.
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
Many behavioral responses to odors are synergistic, particularly in insects. In beetles, synergy often involves a pheromone and a plant odor, and pest management relies on them for the use of combined lures. To investigate olfactory synergy mechanisms, we need to distinguish synergistic effects from additive ones, when all components of the mixture are active.
As versatile tools and procedures were not available, we developed a bioassay, and a mathematical model to evaluate synergy between aggregation pheromone (P) and host plant odors (kairomone: K) in the American palm weevil, a pest insect showing enhanced responses to P+K mixtures. Responses to synthetic P and natural K were obtained using a 4-arm olfactometer coupled to a controlled volatile delivery system. We showed that: (1) Response thresholds were ca. 10 and 100 pg/s respectively for P and K. (2) Both stimuli induced similar maximum response. (3) Increasing the dose decreased the response for P to the point of repellence and maintained a maximum response for K. (4) P and K were synergistic over a 100-fold range of doses with experimental responses to P+K mixtures greater than the ones predicted assuming additive effects. Responses close to maximum were associated with the mixture amounts below the response threshold for both P and K.
These results confirm the role of olfactory synergy in optimizing active host-plant localization by phytophagous insects. Our evaluation procedure can be generalized to test synergistic or inhibitory integrated responses of various odor mixtures for various insects.
The navel orangeworm, Amyelois transitella is a major agricultural pest causing large losses in a variety of tree crops. Control of this insect pest may be achieved by interfering with olfactory pathways to block detection of female-produced sex pheromones and consequently, disrupt mating. The first component of this pathway is the pheromone-binding protein AtraPBP1, which recognizes the pheromone and presents it to the odorant receptor housed in a sensory neuron of the male antennae. Release of the ligand depends on a pH-induced conformational change associated with the acidity of the membrane surface. To characterize this conformational change and to understand how pheromones bind, we have determined the high resolution crystal structures of AtraPBP1 in complex with two main constituents of the sex pheromone, i.e., (11Z,13Z)-hexadecadienal and (11Z,13Z)-hexadecadienol. Comparison with the structure of the unliganded form demonstrates a large ∼90° movement of the C-terminal helix which is observed in other pheromone- or odorant-binding proteins accompanied by an unpredicted 37° displacement of the N-terminal helix. Molecular dynamic trajectories suggest that the conformational change of the α1 helix facilitates the movement of the C-terminal helix.
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.
Defensins are a well known family of cationic antibacterial peptides (AMPs) isolated from fungi, plants, insects, mussels, birds, and various mammals. They are predominantly active against gram (+) bacteria, and a few of them are also active against gram (-) bacteria and fungi. All insect defensins belonging to the invertebrate class have a consensus motif, C-X5-16-C-X3-C-X9-10-C-X4-7-CX1-C. Only seven AMPs have already been found in different lepidopteran species. No report was published on the isolation of defensin from the Egyptian cotton leafworm, Spodoptera littoralis.
An anionic defensin, termed SpliDef, was isolated from the haemolymph of the cotton leafworm, S. littoralis, after bacterial challenge using differential display technique. Based on sequence analyses of the data, specific primers for full length and mature peptide of defensin were designed and successfully amplified 471 and 150 bp amplicons. The integration of the results revealed that the 471 bp-PCR product has one open reading frame (orf) of 303 bp long, including both start codon (AUG) and stop codon (UGA). The deduced peptide consists of a 23-residues signal peptide, a 27-residues propeptide and a 50-residues mature peptide with the conserved six-cysteine motif of insect defensins. Both haemolymph and expressed protein exhibited antibacterial activities comparable to positive control. The RT-qPCR indicated that it was more than 41-folds up-regulated at 48 h p.i.
Our results highlight an important immune role of the defensin gene in Spodoptera littoralis by cooperating with other AMPs to control bacterial infection.
A critical component for sustaining adequate food production is the protection of local agriculture from invasive pest insects. Essential to this goal is the ability to accurately distinguish foreign from closely related domestic species, a process that has traditionally required identification using diagnostic morphological “keys” that can be both subtle and labor-intensive. This is the case for the Lepidopteran group of insects represented by Spodoptera, a genus of Noctuidae “armyworm” moths that includes several important agricultural pests. Two of the most destructive species, Spodoptera littoralis (Boisduval) (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) and S. litura (F.) are not yet established in North America. To facilitate the monitoring for these pests, the feasibility of using DNA barcoding methodology for distinguishing between domestic and foreign Spodoptera species was tested. A DNA barcoding database was derived for a subset of Spodoptera species native to Florida, with an emphasis on those attracted to pheromone blends developed for S. litura or S. littoralis. These were then compared to the barcode sequences of S. litura collected from Taiwan and S. littoralis from Portugal. Consistent discrimination of the different species was obtained with phenetic relationships produced that were generally in agreement with phylogenetic studies using morphological characteristics. The data presented here indicate that DNA barcoding has the potential to be an efficient and accurate supplement to morphological methods for the identification of invasive Spodoptera pests in North America.
COI; cytochrome-c oxidase subunit I; invasive pests; mitochondrial DNA
At least three different insecticidal crystal protein genes were shown to be expressed in Bacillus thuringiensis subsp. aizawai 7.29, a strain that is potentially active against the cotton leafworm Spodoptera littoralis Bdv. Among crude K-60 fractions (60- to 70-kilodalton [kDa] molecules) that were products of proteolysed crystals containing the active domains of the protoxin molecules, we were able to distinguish several distinct components on the basis of their antigenic relationship and their larvicidal properties. A purified fraction designated SF2 was a 61-kDa component specifically active against Pieris brassicae L. and homologous to the B. thuringiensis subsp. berliner 1715 plasmid-encoded crystal protein. A second fraction designated SF1 was composed of 63- and 65-kDa polypeptides and was specifically active against S. littoralis. The SF1 fraction and particularly the 65-kDa component were not antigenically related to the 61-kDa component. The purified fractions were compared with the products of three different crystal protein genes we previously cloned from total DNA of B. thuringiensis subsp. aizawai, among them a new type of crystal protein gene encoding a protein that is specifically active against S. littoralis and other insects of the Noctuidae family. This approach led us to consider the 65-kDa component as a minimum active part of a δ-endotoxin that is encoded by this new gene. Products of the two other cloned genes can be correlated with the 61- and 63-kDa components, respectively. Thus, in B. thuringiensis subsp. aizawai 7.29, multiple δ-endotoxin genes of different structural types direct the synthesis of several δ-endotoxins with different host specificities which were identified as components of the insecticidal crystals.
Volatile odors are important sensory inputs that shape the behaviour of insects, including agricultural pests and disease vectors. Anopheles gambiae s.s. is a highly anthropophilic mosquito and is the major vector for human malaria in sub-Sahara Africa, while Anopheles quadriannulatus, largely due to its zoophilic behaviour, is considered a non-vector species in the same region. Careful studies of olfaction in these sibling species may lead to insights about the mechanisms that drive host preference behaviour. In the present study, the external anatomy of the antenna, the principle olfactory organ in the female mosquito of both species, was examined as an initial step toward more detailed comparisons.
Scanning electron and light microscopy were used to examine the antennae ultrastructures of adult female An. gambiae s.s. and An. quadriannulatus. Sensory structures, called sensilla, were categorized and counted; their distributions are reported here as well as densities calculated for each species.
Both An. gambiae s.s. and An. quadriannulatus bear five classes of sensilla on their antennae: chaetica (bristles), trichodea (hairs), basiconica (pegs), coeloconica (pitted pegs), and ampullacea (pegs in tubes). Female An. quadriannulatus antennae have approximately one-third more sensilla, and a proportionally larger surface area, than female An. gambiae s.s. antennae.
The same types of sensilla are found on the antennae of both species. While An. quadriannulatus has greater numbers of each sensilla type, sensilla densities are very similar for each species, suggesting that other factors may be more important to such olfactory-driven behaviours as host preference.
Chemical senses are crucial for all organisms to detect various environmental information. Different protein families, expressed in chemosensory organs, are involved in the detection of this information, such as odorant-binding proteins, olfactory and gustatory receptors, and ionotropic receptors. We recently reported an Expressed Sequence Tag (EST) approach on male antennae of the noctuid moth, Spodoptera littoralis, with which we could identify a large array of chemosensory genes in a species for which no genomic data are available.
Here we describe a complementary EST project on female antennae in the same species. 18,342 ESTs were sequenced and their assembly with our previous male ESTs led to a total of 13,685 unigenes, greatly improving our description of the S. littoralis antennal transcriptome. Gene ontology comparison between male and female data suggested a similar complexity of antennae of both sexes. Focusing on chemosensation, we identified 26 odorant-binding proteins, 36 olfactory and 5 gustatory receptors, expressed in the antennae of S. littoralis. One of the newly identified gustatory receptors appeared as female-enriched. Together with its atypical tissue-distribution, this suggests a role in oviposition. The compilation of male and female antennal ESTs represents a valuable resource for exploring the mechanisms of olfaction in S. littoralis.
Olfactory receptor; Gustatory receptor; Odorant-binding protein; Expressed sequence tag; Lepidoptera; Spodoptera littoralis.
The survival of an animal often depends on an innate response to a particular sensory stimulus. For an adult male moth, two categories of odors are innately attractive: pheromone released by conspecific females, and the floral scents of certain, often co-evolved, plants. These odors consist of multiple volatiles in characteristic mixtures. Here, we review evidence that both categories of odors are processed as sensory objects, and we suggest a mechanism in the primary olfactory center, the antennal lobe (AL), that encodes the configuration of these mixtures and may underlie recognition of innately attractive odors. In the pheromone system, mixtures of two or three volatiles elicit upwind flight. Peripheral changes are associated with behavioral changes in speciation, and suggest the existence of a pattern recognition mechanism for pheromone mixtures in the AL. Moths are similarly innately attracted to certain floral scents. Though floral scents consist of multiple volatiles that activate a broad array of receptor neurons, only a smaller subset, numerically comparable to pheromone mixtures, is necessary and sufficient to elicit behavior. Both pheromone and floral scent mixtures that produce attraction to the odor source elicit synchronous action potentials in particular populations of output (projection) neurons (PNs) in the AL. We propose a model in which the synchronous output of a population of PNs encodes the configuration of an innately attractive mixture, and thus comprises an innate mechanism for releasing odor-tracking behavior. The particular example of olfaction in moths may inform the general question of how sensory objects trigger innate responses.
floral scent; moths; neuroethology; olfaction; pheromone; sensory coding; sensory object; synchrony
Remarkably little is known about the molecular and cellular basis of mate recognition in Drosophila . We systematically examine one of the three major types of sensilla that house olfactory receptor neurons (ORNs) on the Drosophila antenna, the trichoid sensilla, by electrophysiological analysis. We find that none respond strongly to food odors, but all respond to fly odors. Two subtypes of trichoid sensilla contain ORNs that respond to cis-vaccenyl acetate (cVA), an anti-aphrodisiac pheromone present in males and transferred to females during mating [2–4]. All trichoid sensilla yield responses to a male extract; a subset yield responses to a virgin female extract as well. Thus males can be distinguished from virgin females by the activity they elicit among the trichoid ORN population. We then systematically test all members of the Odor receptor (Or) gene family [5–7] that are expressed in trichoid sensilla , using an in vivo expression system . Four receptors respond to fly odors in this system: two respond to extracts of both males and virgin females, and two respond to cVA. We propose a model for how these receptors might be used by a male to distinguish suitable from unsuitable mating partners through a simple logic.
Insect herbivory induces plant odors that attract herbivores' natural enemies. Assuming this attraction emerges from individual compounds, genetic control over odor emission of crops may provide a rationale for manipulating the distribution of predators used for pest control. However, studies on odor perception in vertebrates and invertebrates suggest that olfactory information processing of mixtures results in odor percepts that are a synthetic whole and not a set of components that could function as recognizable individual attractants. Here, we ask if predators respond to herbivore-induced attractants in odor mixtures or to odor mixture as a whole.
We studied a system consisting of Lima bean, the herbivorous mite Tetranychus urticae and the predatory mite Phytoseiulus persimilis. We found that four herbivore-induced bean volatiles are not attractive in pure form while a fifth, methyl salicylate (MeSA), is. Several reduced mixtures deficient in one component compared to the full spider-mite induced blend were not attractive despite the presence of MeSA indicating that the predators cannot detect this component in these odor mixtures. A mixture of all five HIPV is most attractive, when offered together with the non-induced odor of Lima bean. Odors that elicit no response in their pure form were essential components of the attractive mixture.
We conclude that the predatory mites perceive odors as a synthetic whole and that the hypothesis that predatory mites recognize attractive HIPV in odor mixtures is unsupported.
Insects detect a multitude of odors using a broad array of phenotypically distinct olfactory organs referred to as olfactory sensilla. Each sensillum contains one to several sensory neurons and at least three support cells; these cells arise from mitotic activities from one or a small group of defined precursor cells. Sensilla phenotypes are defined by distinct morphologies, and specificities to specific odors; these are the consequence of developmental programs expressed by associated neurons and support cells, and by selection and expression of subpopulations of olfactory genes encoding such proteins as odor receptors, odorant binding proteins, and odor degrading enzymes.
We are investigating development of the olfactory epithelium of adult M. sexta, identifying events which might establish sensilla phenotypes. In the present study, antennal tissue was examined during the first three days of an 18 day development, a period when sensory mitotic activity was previously reported to occur. Each antenna develops as a cylinder with an outward facing sensory epithelium divided into approximately 80 repeat units or annuli. Mitotic proliferation of sensory cells initiated about 20–24 hrs after pupation (a.p.), in pre-existing zones of high density cells lining the proximal and distal borders of each annulus. These high density zones were observed as early as two hr. a.p., and expanded with mitotic activity to fill the mid-annular regions by about 72 hrs a.p. Mitotic activity initiated at a low rate, increasing dramatically after 40–48 hrs a.p.; this activity was enhanced by ecdysteroids, but did not occur in animals entering pupal diapause (which is also ecdysteroid sensitive).
Sensory proliferation initiates in narrow zones along the proximal and distal borders of each annulus; these zones rapidly expand to fill the mid-annular regions. These zones exist prior to any mitotic activity as regions of high density cells which form either at or prior to pupation. Mitotic sensitivity to ecdysteroids may be a regulatory mechanism coordinating olfactory development with the developmental choice of diapause entry.
Rhizoctonia solani agglutinin, further referred to as RSA, is a lectin isolated from the plant pathogenic fungus Rhizoctonia solani. Previously, we reported a high entomotoxic activity of RSA towards the cotton leafworm Spodoptera littoralis. To better understand the mechanism of action of RSA, Drosophila melanogaster Schneider S2 cells were treated with different concentrations of the lectin and FITC-labeled RSA binding was examined using confocal fluorescence microscopy. RSA has antiproliferative activity with a median effect concentration (EC50) of 0.35 µM. In addition, the lectin was typically bound to the cell surface but not internalized. In contrast, the N-acetylglucosamine-binding lectin WGA and the galactose-binding lectin PNA, which were both also inhibitory for S2 cell proliferation, were internalized whereas the mannose-binding lectin GNA did not show any activity on these cells, although it was internalized. Extracted DNA and nuclei from S2 cells treated with RSA were not different from untreated cells, confirming inhibition of proliferation without apoptosis. Pre-incubation of RSA with N-acetylgalactosamine clearly inhibited the antiproliferative activity by RSA in S2 cells, demonstrating the importance of carbohydrate binding. Similarly, the use of MEK and JAK inhibitors reduced the activity of RSA. Finally, RSA affinity chromatography of membrane proteins from S2 cells allowed the identification of several cell surface receptors involved in both signaling transduction pathways.
The main problems with Bacillus thuringiensis products for pest control are their often narrow activity spectrum, high sensitivity to UV degradation, and low cost effectiveness (high potency required). We constructed a sporulation-deficient SigK− B. thuringiensis strain that expressed a chimeric cry1C/Ab gene, the product of which had high activity against various lepidopteran pests, including Spodoptera littoralis (Egyptian cotton leaf worm) and Spodoptera exigua (lesser [beet] armyworm), which are not readily controlled by other Cry δ-endotoxins. The SigK− host strain carried the cry1Ac gene, the product of which is highly active against the larvae of the major pests Ostrinia nubilalis (European corn borer) and Heliothis virescens (tobacco budworm). This new strain had greater potency and a broader activity spectrum than the parent strain. The crystals produced by the asporogenic strain remained encapsulated within the cells, which protected them from UV degradation. The cry1C/Ab gene was introduced into the B. thuringiensis host via a site-specific recombination vector so that unwanted DNA was eliminated. Therefore, the final construct contained no sequences of non-B. thuringiensis origin. As the recombinant strain is a mutant blocked at late sporulation, it does not produce viable spores and therefore cannot compete with wild-type B. thuringiensis strains in the environment. It is thus a very safe biopesticide. In field trials, this new recombinant strain protected cabbage and broccoli against a pest complex under natural infestation conditions.
Volatiles emitted by herbivore-infested plants are highly attractive to parasitoids and therefore have been proposed to be part of an indirect plant defense strategy. However, this proposed function of the plant-provided signals remains controversial, and it is unclear how specific and reliable the signals are under natural conditions with simultaneous feeding by multiple herbivores. Phloem feeders in particular are assumed to interfere with plant defense responses. Therefore, we investigated how attack by the piercing-sucking cicadellid Euscelidius variegatus influences signaling by maize plants in response to the chewing herbivore Spodoptera littoralis.
The parasitoid Cotesia marginiventris strongly preferred volatiles of plants infested with its host S. littoralis. Overall, the volatile emissions induced by S. littoralis and E. variegatus were similar, but higher levels of certain wound-released compounds may have allowed the wasps to specifically recognize plants infested by hosts. Expression levels of defense marker genes and further behavioral bioassays with the parasitoid showed that neither the physiological defense responses nor the attractiveness of S. littoralis infested plants were altered by simultaneous E. variegatus attack.
Our findings imply that plant defense responses to herbivory can be more robust than generally assumed and that ensuing volatiles convey specific information about the type of herbivore that is attacking a plant, even in complex situations with multiple herbivores. Hence, the results of this study support the notion that herbivore-induced plant volatiles may be part of a plant's indirect defense stratagem.
Various proteins that display carbohydrate-binding activity in a Ca2+-dependent manner are classified into the C-type lectin family. They have one or two C-type carbohydrate-recognition domains (CRDs) composed of 110–130 amino acid residues in common. C-type lectins mediate cell adhesion, non-self recognition, and immuno-protection processes in immune responses and thus play significant roles in clearance of invaders, either as cell surface receptors for microbial carbohydrates or as soluble proteins existing in tissue fluids. The lectin of Spodoptera littoralis is still uncharacterized.
A single orf encoding a deduced polypeptide consisting of an 18-residue signal peptide and a 291-residue mature peptide, termed SpliLec, was isolated from the haemolymph of the cotton leafworm, S. littoralis, after bacterial challenge using RACE-PCR. Sequence analyses of the data revealed that SpliLec consists of two CRDs. Short-form CRD1 and long-form CRD2 are stabilized by two and three highly conserved disulfide bonds, respectively. SpliLec shares homology with some dipteran lectins suggesting possible common ancestor. The purified SpliLec exhibited a 140-kDa molecular mass with a subunit molecular mass of 35 kDa. The hemagglutination assays of the SpliLec confirmed a thermally stable, multisugar-binding C-type lectin that binds different erythrocytes. The purified SpliLec agglutinated microorganisms and exhibited comparable antimicrobial activity against gram (+) and gram (−) bacteria too.
Our results suggested an important role of the SpliLec gene in cell adhesion and non-self recognition. It may cooperate with other AMPs in clearance of invaders of Spodoptera littoralis.
Aphids are agricultural pests of great economical interest. Alternatives to insecticides, using semiochemicals, are of difficult applications. In fact, sex pheromones are of little use as aphids reproduce partenogenetically most of the time. Besides, the alarm pheromone, (E)-ß-farnesene for a great number of species, is difficult to synthesize and unstable in the environment. The search for novel semiochemicals to be used in population control can be efficiently approached through the study of the olfactory system at the biochemical level. Recently odorant-binding proteins (OBPs) have been shown to play a central role in olfactory recognition, thus becoming the target of choice for designing new semiochemicals.
To address the question of how the alarm message is recognised at the level of OBPs, we have tested 29 compounds, including (E)-ß-farnesene, in binding assays with 6 recombinant proteins and in behaviour experiments. We have found that good repellents bind OBP3 and/or OBP7, while non repellents present different spectra of binding. These results have been verified with two species of aphids, Acyrthosiphon pisum and Myzus persicae, both using (E)-ß-farnesene as the alarm pheromone.
Our results represent further support to the idea (so far convincingly demonstrated only in Drosophila) that OBPs are involved in decoding the chemical information of odorants and pheromones, and for the first time provide such evidence in other insect species and using wild-type insects. Moreover, the data offer guidelines and protocols for the discovery of potential alarm pheromones, using ligand-binding assays as a preliminary screening before subjecting selected compounds to behaviour tests.