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1.  Requirement for Drosophila SNMP1 for Rapid Activation and Termination of Pheromone-Induced Activity 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(9):e1004600.
Pheromones are used for conspecific communication by many animals. In Drosophila, the volatile male-specific pheromone 11-cis vaccenyl acetate (cVA) supplies an important signal for gender recognition. Sensing of cVA by the olfactory system depends on multiple components, including an olfactory receptor (OR67d), the co-receptor ORCO, and an odorant binding protein (LUSH). In addition, a CD36 related protein, sensory neuron membrane protein 1 (SNMP1) is also involved in cVA detection. Loss of SNMP1 has been reported to eliminate cVA responsiveness, and to greatly increase spontaneous activity of OR67d-expressing olfactory receptor neurons (ORNs). Here, we found the snmp11 mutation did not abolish cVA responsiveness or cause high spontaneous activity. The cVA responses in snmp1 mutants displayed a delayed onset, and took longer to reach peak activity than wild-type. Most strikingly, loss of SNMP1 caused a dramatic delay in signal termination. The profound impairment in signal inactivation accounted for the previously reported “spontaneous activity,” which represented continuous activation following transient exposure to environmental cVA. We introduced the silk moth receptor (BmOR1) in OR67d ORNs of snmp11 flies and found that the ORNs showed slow activation and deactivation kinetics in response to the BmOR1 ligand (bombykol). We expressed the bombykol receptor complex in Xenopus oocytes in the presence or absence of the silk moth SNMP1 (BmSNMP) and found that addition of BmSNMP accelerated receptor activation and deactivation. Our results thus clarify SNMP1 as an important player required for the rapid kinetics of the pheromone response in insects.
Author Summary
Pheromones are chemicals produced and released by animals for social communication with other members of their species. For example, male fruit flies produce a volatile pheromone that is sensed by both males and females, and which functions in gender recognition. This volatile male pheromone, called 11-cis vaccenyl acetate, is detected by olfactory neurons housed in hair-like appendages on the insect antenna. To effectively sense the pheromone, especially during navigation, the olfactory neurons must respond rapidly, and then quickly inactivate after the stimulation ceases. We found that a CD36-related protein referred to as sensory neuron membrane protein 1 (SNMP1) was required by olfactory neurons for the rapid on and off responses to 11-cis vaccenyl acetate. Loss of SNMP1 reduced the initial sensitivity to the pheromone, and then caused a strikingly slower termination of the response after removal of the pheromone. Our findings demonstrate that SNMP1 is a critical player that allows olfactory neurons to achieve sensitive and rapid on and off responses to a pheromone that is critical for social interactions in insects.
PMCID: PMC4177743  PMID: 25255106
2.  Love makes smell blind: mating suppresses pheromone attraction in Drosophila females via Or65a olfactory neurons 
Scientific Reports  2014;4:7119.
In Drosophila, the male sex pheromone cis-vaccenyl acetate (cVA) elicits aggregation and courtship, through the odorant receptor Or67d. Long-lasting exposure to cVA suppresses male courtship, via a second channel, Or65a. In females, the role of Or65a has not been studied. We show that, shortly after mating, Drosophila females are no longer attracted to cVA and that activation of olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs) expressing Or65a generates this behavioral switch: when silencing Or65a, mated females remain responsive to cVA. Neurons expressing Or67d converge into the DA1 glomerulus in the antennal lobe, where they synapse onto projection neurons (PNs), that connect to higher neural circuits generating the attraction response to cVA. Functional imaging of these PNs shows that the DA1 glomerulus is inhibited by simultaneous activation of Or65a OSNs, which leads to a suppression of the attraction response to cVA. The behavioral role of postmating cVA exposure is substantiated by the observation that matings with starved males, which produce less cVA, do not alter the female response. Moreover, exposure to synthetic cVA abolishes attraction and decreases sexual receptivity in unmated females. Taken together, Or65a mediates an aversive effect of cVA and may accordingly regulate remating, through concurrent behavioral modulation in males and females.
PMCID: PMC4236738  PMID: 25406576
3.  Activation of the T1 Neuronal Circuit is Necessary and Sufficient to Induce Sexually Dimorphic Mating Behavior in Drosophila 
The molecular and cellular events mediating complex behaviors in animals are largely unknown. Elucidating the circuits underlying behaviors in simple model systems may shed light on how these circuits function. In Drosophila, courtship behavior provides a tractable model for studying the underlying basis of innate behavior. The male-specific pheromone 11-cis-vaccenyl acetate (cVA) modulates courtship behavior and is detected by T1 neurons, located on the antenna of male and female flies. The T1 neurons express the odorant receptor Or67d, and are exquisitely tuned to cVA pheromone. However, cVA-induced changes in mating behavior have also been reported upon manipulation of olfactory neurons expressing odorant receptor Or65a. These findings raise the issue of whether multiple olfactory-driven circuits underlie cVA-induced behavioral responses, and what role these circuits play in behavior. Here, we engineered flies in which the Or67d circuit is specifically activated in the absence of cVA in order to determine the role of this circuit in behavior. We created transgenic flies that express a dominant-active, pheromone-independent variant of the extracellular pheromone receptor, LUSH. We found that, similar to the behaviors elicited by cVA, engineered male flies have dramatically reduced courtship, while engineered females showed enhanced courtship. Furthermore, cVA exposure did not enhance the dominant LUSH-triggered effects on behavior in the engineered flies. Finally, we show the effects of both cVA and dominant LUSH on courtship are reversed by genetically removing Or67d. These findings demonstrate that the T1/Or67d circuit is necessary and sufficient to mediate sexually dimorphic courtship behaviors.
PMCID: PMC3426441  PMID: 20164344
lush; Or67d; cVA; courtship; pheromone; olfaction
4.  An olfactory subsystem that detects carbon disulfide and mediates food-related social learning 
Current biology : CB  2010;20(16):1438-1444.
Olfactory signals influence social interactions in a variety of species [1, 2]. In mammals, pheromones and other social cues can promote mating or aggression behaviors, can communicate information about social hierarchies, genetic identity and health status, and can contribute to associative learning [1–5]. However, the molecular, cellular and neural mechanisms underlying many olfactory-mediated social interactions remain poorly understood. Here, we report that a specialized olfactory subsystem that includes olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs) expressing the receptor guanylyl cyclase GC-D, the cyclic nucleotide-gated channel subunit CNGA3 and the carbonic anhydrase isoform CAII (GC-D+ OSNs) [6–11] is required for the acquisition of socially transmitted food preferences (STFPs) in mice. Using electrophysiological recordings from gene-targeted mice, we show that GC-D+ OSNs are highly sensitive to the volatile semiochemical carbon disulfide (CS2), a component of rodent breath and a known social signal mediating the acquisition of STFPs [12–14]. Responses to sub-micromolar concentrations of CS2 in the main olfactory epithelium or in identified GC-D+ OSNs are absent in mice lacking CNGA3 or CAII and drastically reduced in mice lacking GC-D. Mice in which GC-D+ OSN transduction mechanisms have been disrupted fail to acquire STFPs from either live or surrogate demonstrator mice and do not exhibit neuronal activation of the ventral subiculum of the hippocampus, a brain region implicated in STFP retrieval [15]. Our findings indicate that GC-D+ OSNs detect chemosignals that facilitate food-related social interactions.
PMCID: PMC2929674  PMID: 20637621
GC-D; semiochemical; CS2; CNGA3; carbonic anhydrase; social communication; odor; mouse
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.  Pheromonal and Behavioral Cues Trigger Male-to-Female Aggression in Drosophila 
PLoS Biology  2010;8(11):e1000541.
By genetically manipulating both pheromonal profiles and behavioral patterns, we find that Drosophila males showed a complete reversal in their patterns of aggression towards other males and females
Appropriate displays of aggression rely on the ability to recognize potential competitors. As in most species, Drosophila males fight with other males and do not attack females. In insects, sex recognition is strongly dependent on chemosensory communication, mediated by cuticular hydrocarbons acting as pheromones. While the roles of chemical and other sensory cues in stimulating male to female courtship have been well characterized in Drosophila, the signals that elicit aggression remain unclear. Here we show that when female pheromones or behavior are masculinized, males recognize females as competitors and switch from courtship to aggression. To masculinize female pheromones, a transgene carrying dsRNA for the sex determination factor transformer (traIR) was targeted to the pheromone producing cells, the oenocytes. Shortly after copulation males attacked these females, indicating that pheromonal cues can override other sensory cues. Surprisingly, masculinization of female behavior by targeting traIR to the nervous system in an otherwise normal female also was sufficient to trigger male aggression. Simultaneous masculinization of both pheromones and behavior induced a complete switch in the normal male response to a female. Control males now fought rather than copulated with these females. In a reciprocal experiment, feminization of the oenocytes and nervous system in males by expression of transformer (traF) elicited high levels of courtship and little or no aggression from control males. Finally, when confronted with flies devoid of pheromones, control males attacked male but not female opponents, suggesting that aggression is not a default behavior in the absence of pheromonal cues. Thus, our results show that masculinization of either pheromones or behavior in females is sufficient to trigger male-to-female aggression. Moreover, by manipulating both the pheromonal profile and the fighting patterns displayed by the opponent, male behavioral responses towards males and females can be completely reversed. Therefore, both pheromonal and behavioral cues are used by Drosophila males in recognizing a conspecific as a competitor.
Author Summary
As in other species, the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster uses chemical signals in the form of pheromones to recognize the species and sex of another individual. Males typically fight with other males and do not attack females. While the roles of pheromonal and other sensory cues in stimulating courtship towards females have been extensively studied, the signals that elicit aggression towards other males remain unclear. In this work, we use genetic tools to show that masculinization of female pheromones is sufficient to trigger aggression from wild type males towards females. Surprisingly, males also attacked females that displayed male patterns of aggression, even if they show normal female pheromonal profiles, indicating that pheromones are not the only cues important for identifying another animal as an opponent. By simultaneously manipulating pheromones and behavioral patterns of opponents, we can completely switch the behavioral response of males towards females and males. These results demonstrate that not only pheromonal but also behavioral cues can serve as triggers of aggression, underlining the importance of behavioral feedback in the manifestation of social behaviors.
PMCID: PMC2990703  PMID: 21124886
7.  miR-124 controls male reproductive success in Drosophila 
eLife  2013;2:e00640.
Many aspects of social behavior are controlled by sex-specific pheromones. Gender-appropriate production of the sexually dimorphic transcription factors doublesex and fruitless controls sexual differentiation and sexual behavior. miR-124 mutant males exhibited increased male–male courtship and reduced reproductive success with females. Females showed a strong preference for wild-type males over miR-124 mutant males when given a choice of mates. These effects were traced to aberrant pheromone production. We identified the sex-specific splicing factor transformer as a functionally significant target of miR-124 in this context, suggesting a role for miR-124 in the control of male sexual differentiation and behavior, by limiting inappropriate expression of the female form of transformer. miR-124 is required to ensure fidelity of gender-appropriate pheromone production in males. Use of a microRNA provides a secondary means of controlling the cascade of sex-specific splicing events that controls sexual differentiation in Drosophila.
eLife digest
Like many animals, the fruit fly Drosophila uses pheromones to influence sexual behaviour, with males and females producing different versions of these chemicals. One of the pheromones produced by male flies, for example, is a chemical called 11-cis-vaccenyl-acetate (cVA), which is an aphrodisiac for female flies and an anti-aphrodisiac for males.
The production of the correct pheromones in each sex is genetically controlled using a process called splicing that allows a single gene to be expressed as two or more different proteins. A variety of proteins called splicing factors ensures that splicing results in the production of the correct pheromones for each sex. Sometimes, however, the process by which sex genes are expressed as proteins can be ‘leaky’, which results in the wrong proteins being produced for one or both sexes.
Small RNA molecules called microRNAs act in some genetic pathways to limit the leaky expression of genes, and a microRNA called miR-124 carries out this function in the developing brain Drosophila. Now, Weng et al. show that miR-124 also helps to regulate sex-specific splicing and thereby to control pheromone production and sexual behaviour.
Mutant male flies lacking miR-124 were less successful than wild-type males at mating with female flies, and were almost always rejected if a female fly was given a choice between a mutant male and a wild-type male. Moreover, both wild-type and mutant male flies were more likely to initiate courtship behaviour towards another male if it lacked miR-124 than if it did not.
The mutant male flies produced less cVA than wild-type males, but more of other pheromones called pentacosenes, which is consistent with the observed behaviour because cVA attracts females and repels males, whereas pentacosenes act as aphrodisiacs for male flies in large amounts. Weng et al. showed that these changes in the production of pheromones were caused by an increased expression of the female version of a splicing factor called transformer in the mutant males, but further work is needed to understand this process in detail.
PMCID: PMC3679528  PMID: 23795292
microRNA; pheromome; behaviour; genetics; selection; evolution; D. melanogaster
8.  The smell of love in Drosophila 
Odors are key sensory signals for social communication and food search in animals including insects. Drosophila melanogaster, is a powerful neurogenetic model commonly used to reveal molecular and cellular mechanisms involved in odorant detection. Males use olfaction together with other sensory modalities to find their mates. Here, we review known olfactory signals, their related olfactory receptors, and the corresponding neuronal architecture impacting courtship. OR67d receptor detects 11-cis-Vaccenyl Acetate (cVA), a male specific pheromone transferred to the female during copulation. Transferred cVA is able to reduce female attractiveness for other males after mating, and is also suspected to decrease male-male courtship. cVA can also serve as an aggregation signal, maybe through another OR. OR47b was shown to be activated by fly odors, and to enhance courtship depending on taste pheromones. IR84a detects phenylacetic acid (PAA) and phenylacetaldehyde (PA). These two odors are not pheromones produced by flies, but are present in various fly food sources. PAA enhances male courtship, acting as a food aphrodisiac. Drosophila males have thus developed complementary olfactory strategies to help them to select their mates.
PMCID: PMC3617446  PMID: 23576993
courtship; Drosophila; olfaction; receptor; nervous system
9.  Hierarchical chemosensory regulation of male-male social interactions in Drosophila 
Nature neuroscience  2011;14(6):757-762.
Pheromones regulate male social behaviors in Drosophila, but the identities and behavioral role(s) of these chemosensory signals, and how they interact, are incompletely understood. Here we show that (Z)-7-tricosene (7-T), a male-enriched cuticular hydrocarbon (CH) previously shown to inhibit male-male courtship, is also essential for normal levels of aggression. The opposite influences of 7-T on aggression and courtship are independent, but both require the gustatory receptor Gr32a. Surprisingly, sensitivity to 7-T is required for the aggression-promoting effect of 11-cis-vaccenyl acetate (cVA), an olfactory pheromone, but 7-T sensitivity is independent of cVA. 7-T and cVA therefore regulate aggression in a hierarchical manner. Furthermore, the increased courtship caused by depletion of male CHs is suppressed by a mutation in the olfactory receptor Or47b. Thus, male social behaviors are controlled by gustatory pheromones that promote and suppress aggression and courtship, respectively, and whose influences are dominant to olfactory pheromones that enhance these behaviors.
PMCID: PMC3102769  PMID: 21516101
10.  Generalization of courtship learning in Drosophila is mediated by cis-vaccenyl acetate 
Current biology : CB  2007;17(7):599-605.
Reproductive behavior in Drosophila has both stereotyped and plastic components that are driven by age- and sex-specific chemical cues. Males who unsuccessfully court virgin females subsequently avoid females that are of the same age as the trainer. In contrast, males trained with mature mated females associate volatile appetitive and aversive pheromonal cues and learn to suppress courtship of all females. Here we show that the volatile aversive pheromone that leads to generalized learning with mated females is (Z)-11-octadecenyl acetate (cis-vaccenyl acetate, cVA). cVA is a major component of the male cuticular hydrocarbon profile, but it is not found on virgin females. During copulation, cVA is transferred to the female in ejaculate along with sperm and peptides that decrease her sexual receptivity. When males sense cVA (either synthetic or from mated female or male extracts) in the context of female pheromone, they develop a generalized suppression of courtship. The effects of cVA on initial courtship of virgin females can be blocked by expression of tetanus toxin in Or65a, but not Or67d neurons, demonstrating that the aversive effects of this pheromone are mediated by a specific class of olfactory neuron. These findings suggest that transfer of cVA to females during mating may be part of the male’s strategy to suppress reproduction by competing males.
PMCID: PMC1913718  PMID: 17363250
Learning and memory; olfaction; Drosophila; pheromones; cis-vaccenyl acetate
11.  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
12.  A circuit supporting concentration-invariant odor perception in Drosophila 
Journal of Biology  2009;8(1):9.
Most odors are perceived to have the same quality over a large concentration range, but the neural mechanisms that permit concentration-invariant olfactory perception are unknown. In larvae of the vinegar fly Drosophila melanogaster, odors are sensed by an array of 25 odorant receptors expressed in 21 olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs). We investigated how subsets of larval OSNs with overlapping but distinct response properties cooperate to mediate perception of a given odorant across a range of concentrations.
Using calcium imaging, we found that ethyl butyrate, an ester perceived by humans as fruity, activated three OSNs with response thresholds that varied across three orders of magnitude. Whereas wild-type larvae were strongly attracted by this odor across a 500-fold range of concentration, individuals with only a single functional OSN showed attraction across a narrower concentration range corresponding to the sensitivity of each ethyl butyrate-tuned OSN. To clarify how the information carried by different OSNs is integrated by the olfactory system, we characterized the response properties of local inhibitory interneurons and projection neurons in the antennal lobe. Local interneurons only responded to high ethyl butyrate concentrations upon summed activation of at least two OSNs. Projection neurons showed a reduced response to odors when summed input from two OSNs impinged on the circuit compared to when there was only a single functional OSN.
Our results show that increasing odor concentrations induce progressive activation of concentration-tuned olfactory sensory neurons and concomitant recruitment of inhibitory local interneurons. We propose that the interplay of combinatorial OSN input and local interneuron activation allows animals to remain sensitive to odors across a large range of stimulus intensities.
PMCID: PMC2656214  PMID: 19171076
13.  Expression of a GABAB - Receptor in Olfactory Sensory Neurons of Sensilla trichodea on the Male Antenna of the Moth Heliothis virescens 
In the olfactory pathway of Drosophila, a GABAB receptor mediated presynaptic gain control mechanism at the first synapse between olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs) and projection neurons has been suggested to play a critical role in setting the sensitivity and detection range of the sensory system. To approach the question if such a mechanism may be realized in the pheromone recognition system of male moths in this study attempts were made to explore if moth's pheromone-responsive cells express a GABAB- receptor. Employing a combination of genome analysis, RT-PCR experiments and screening of an antennal cDNA library we have identified a cDNA which encodes the GABAB-R1 receptor of Heliothis virescens. Moreover, based on the HvirGABAB-R1 sequence we could predict a GABAB-R1 protein from genome sequences of the silkmoth Bombyx mori. To assess whether HvirGABAB-R1 is expressed in OSNs of male antenna we performed whole-mount in situ hybridization (WM-ISH) experiments. Several HvirGABAB-R1 positive cells were visualized under long sensilla trichodea, known to contain pheromone-responsive OSNs. In parallel it was shown that cells under long trichoid hairs were labelled with pheromone receptor specific probes. In addition, the HvirGABAB-R1 specific probe also labelled several cells under shorter olfactory sensilla, but never stained cells under mechanosensory/gustatory sensilla chaetica. Together, the results indicate that a GABAB receptor is expressed in pheromone-responsive OSNs of H. virescens and suggest a presynaptic gain control mechanism in the axon terminals of these cells.
PMCID: PMC3729013  PMID: 23904795
moth; olfaction; GABA; pheromone; in situ hybridization.
14.  Volatile Drosophila Cuticular Pheromones Are Affected by Social but Not Sexual Experience 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e40396.
Recognition of conspecifics and mates is based on a variety of sensory cues that are specific to the species, sex and social status of each individual. The courtship and mating activity of Drosophila melanogaster flies is thought to depend on the olfactory perception of a male-specific volatile pheromone, cis-vaccenyl acetate (cVA), and the gustatory perception of cuticular hydrocarbons (CHs), some of which are sexually dimorphic. Using two complementary sampling methods (headspace Solid Phase Micro-Extraction [SPME] and solvent extraction) coupled with GC-MS analysis, we measured the dispersion of pheromonal CHs in the air and on the substrate around the fly. We also followed the variations in CHs that were induced by social and sexual interactions. We found that all CHs present on the fly body were deposited as a thin layer on the substrate, whereas only a few of these molecules were also detected in the air. Moreover, social experience during early adult development and in mature flies strongly affected male volatile CHs but not cVA, whereas sexual interaction only had a moderate influence on dispersed CHs. Our study suggests that, in addition to their role as contact cues, CHs can influence fly behavior at a distance and that volatile, deposited and body pheromonal CHs participate in a three-step recognition of the chemical identity and social status of insects.
PMCID: PMC3394786  PMID: 22808151
15.  A Large-Scale Analysis of Odor Coding in the Olfactory Epithelium 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2011;31(25):9179-9191.
Mammals can perceive and discriminate myriad volatile chemicals as having a distinct odor. Odorants are initially detected by odorant receptors (ORs) on olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs) in the nose. In the mouse, each OSN expresses one of ∼1000 different OR genes. Although OSNs and their expressed ORs constitute the fundamental units of sensory input to the brain, a comprehensive understanding of how they encode odor identities is still lacking. To gain a broader and more detailed understanding of odorant recognition and odor coding at this level, we tested the responses of 3000 mouse OSNs to 125 odorants with diverse structures and perceived odors. These studies revealed extraordinary diversity, but also bias, in odorant recognition by the OSN, and thus OR, repertoire. They indicate that most OSNs are narrowly tuned to detect a subset of odorants with related structures and often related odors, but that the repertoire also includes broadly tuned components. Strikingly, the vast majority of odorants activated a unique set of OSNs, usually two or more in combination. The resulting combinatorial codes varied in size among odorants and sometimes contained both narrowly and broadly tuned components. While many OSNs recognized multiple odorants, some appeared specific for a given pheromone or other animal-associated compound, or for one or more odorants with a particular odor quality, raising the possibility that signals derived from some OSNs and ORs might elicit an innate behavior or convey a specific odor quality.
PMCID: PMC3758579  PMID: 21697369
16.  Transduction for Pheromones in the Main Olfactory Epithelium Is Mediated by the Ca2+-Activated Channel TRPM5 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2014;34(9):3268-3278.
Growing evidence suggests that the main olfactory epithelium contains a subset of olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs) responding to pheromones. One candidate subpopulation expresses the calcium activated cation channel TRPM5 (transient receptor potential channel M5). Using GFP driven by the TRPM5 promoter in mice, we show that this subpopulation responds to putative pheromones, urine, and major histocompatibility complex peptides, but not to regular odors or a pheromone detected by other species. In addition, this subpopulation of TRPM5-GFP+ OSNs uses novel transduction. In regular OSNs, odorants elicit activation of the cyclic nucleotide-gated (CNG) channel, leading to Ca2+ gating of Cl− channels; in TRPM5-GFP+ OSNs, the Ca2+-activated Cl− ANO2 (anoctamin 2) channel is not expressed, and pheromones elicit activation of the CNG channel leading to Ca2+ gating of TRPM5. In conclusion, we show that OSNs expressing TRPM5 respond to pheromones, but not to regular odors through the opening of CNG channels leading to Ca2+ gating of TRPM5.
PMCID: PMC3935088  PMID: 24573286
olfactory; pheromone; transduction; TRPM5
17.  Early survival factor deprivation in the olfactory epithelium enhances activity-driven survival 
The neuronal olfactory epithelium undergoes permanent renewal because of environmental aggression. This renewal is partly regulated by factors modulating the level of neuronal apoptosis. Among them, we had previously characterized endothelin as neuroprotective. In this study, we explored the effect of cell survival factor deprivation in the olfactory epithelium by intranasal delivery of endothelin receptors antagonists to rat pups. This treatment induced an overall increase of apoptosis in the olfactory epithelium. The responses to odorants recorded by electroolfactogram were decreased in treated animal, a result consistent with a loss of olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs). However, the treated animal performed better in an olfactory orientation test based on maternal odor compared to non-treated littermates. This improved performance could be due to activity-dependent neuronal survival of OSNs in the context of increased apoptosis level. In order to demonstrate it, we odorized pups with octanal, a known ligand for the rI7 olfactory receptor (Olr226). We quantified the number of OSN expressing rI7 by RT-qPCR and whole mount in situ hybridization. While this number was reduced by the survival factor removal treatment, this reduction was abolished by the presence of its ligand. This improved survival was optimal for low concentration of odorant and was specific for rI7-expressing OSNs. Meanwhile, the number of rI7-expressing OSNs was not affected by the odorization in non-treated littermates; showing that the activity-dependant survival of OSNs did not affect the OSN population during the 10 days of odorization in control conditions. Overall, our study shows that when apoptosis is promoted in the olfactory mucosa, the activity-dependent neuronal plasticity allows faster tuning of the olfactory sensory neuron population toward detection of environmental odorants.
PMCID: PMC3870945  PMID: 24399931
Olfaction; activity-dependent plasticity; EOG; U131; WISH
18.  Octopamine Neuromodulation Regulates Gr32a-Linked Aggression and Courtship Pathways in Drosophila Males 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(5):e1004356.
Chemosensory pheromonal information regulates aggression and reproduction in many species, but how pheromonal signals are transduced to reliably produce behavior is not well understood. Here we demonstrate that the pheromonal signals detected by Gr32a-expressing chemosensory neurons to enhance male aggression are filtered through octopamine (OA, invertebrate equivalent of norepinephrine) neurons. Using behavioral assays, we find males lacking both octopamine and Gr32a gustatory receptors exhibit parallel delays in the onset of aggression and reductions in aggression. Physiological and anatomical experiments identify Gr32a to octopamine neuron synaptic and functional connections in the suboesophageal ganglion. Refining the Gr32a-expressing population indicates that mouth Gr32a neurons promote male aggression and form synaptic contacts with OA neurons. By restricting the monoamine neuron target population, we show that three previously identified OA-FruM neurons involved in behavioral choice are among the Gr32a-OA connections. Our findings demonstrate that octopaminergic neuromodulatory neurons function as early as a second-order step in this chemosensory-driven male social behavior pathway.
Author Summary
To mate or fight? When meeting other members of their species, male fruit flies must determine whether a second fly is male or female and proceed with the appropriate behavioral patterns. The taste receptor, Gr32a, has been reported to respond to chemical messages (pheromones) that are important for gender recognition, as eliminating Gr32a function impairs both male courtship and aggressive behavior. Here we demonstrate that different subsets of Gr32a-expressing neuron populations mediate these mutually exclusive behaviors and the male Gr32a-mediated behavioral response is amplified through neurons that contain the neuromodulator octopamine (OA, an invertebrate equivalent of norepinephrine). Gr32a-expressing neurons connect functionally and synaptically with distinct OA neurons indicating these amine neurons may function as early as a second-order step in a chemosensory-driven circuit. Our results contribute to understanding how an organism selects an appropriate behavioral response upon receiving external sensory signals.
PMCID: PMC4031044  PMID: 24852170
19.  Receptors and neurons for fly odors in Drosophila 
Current biology : CB  2007;17(7):606-612.
Remarkably little is known about the molecular and cellular basis of mate recognition in Drosophila [1]. 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 [8], using an in vivo expression system [9]. 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.
PMCID: PMC1876700  PMID: 17363256
20.  Temporal response dynamics of Drosophila olfactory sensory neurons depends on receptor type and response polarity 
Insect olfactory sensory neurons (OSN) express a diverse array of receptors from different protein families, i.e. ionotropic receptors (IR), gustatory receptors (GR) and odorant receptors (OR). It is well known that insects are exposed to a plethora of odor molecules that vary widely in both space and time under turbulent natural conditions. In addition to divergent ligand specificities, these different receptors might also provide an increased range of temporal dynamics and sensitivities for the olfactory system. To test this, we challenged different Drosophila OSNs with both varying stimulus durations (10–2000 ms), and repeated stimulus pulses of key ligands at various frequencies (1–10 Hz). Our results show that OR-expressing OSNs responded faster and with higher sensitivity to short stimulations as compared to IR- and Gr21a-expressing OSNs. In addition, OR-expressing OSNs could respond to repeated stimulations of excitatory ligands up to 5 Hz, while IR-expressing OSNs required ~5x longer stimulations and/or higher concentrations to respond to similar stimulus durations and frequencies. Nevertheless, IR-expressing OSNs did not exhibit adaptation to longer stimulations, unlike OR- and Gr21a-OSNs. Both OR- and IR-expressing OSNs were also unable to resolve repeated pulses of inhibitory ligands as fast as excitatory ligands. These differences were independent of the peri-receptor environment in which the receptors were expressed and suggest that the receptor expressed by a given OSN affects both its sensitivity and its response to transient, intermittent chemical stimuli. OR-expressing OSNs are better at resolving low dose, intermittent stimuli, while IR-expressing OSNs respond more accurately to long-lasting odor pulses. This diversity increases the capacity of the insect olfactory system to respond to the diverse spatiotemporal signals in the natural environment.
PMCID: PMC3499765  PMID: 23162431
odorant receptors; ionotropic receptors; pulse resolution; single sensillum recording
21.  Volatile pheromone signalling in Drosophila 
Physiological entomology  2012;37(1):10.1111/j.1365-3032.2011.00813.x.
Once captured by the antenna, 11-cis vaccenyl acetate (cVA) binds to an extracellular binding protein called LUSH that undergoes a conformational shift upon cVA binding. The stable LUSH–cVA complex is the activating ligand for pheromone receptors present on the dendrites of the aT1 neurones, comprising the only neurones that detect cVA pheromone. This mechanism explains the single molecule sensitivity of insect pheromone detection systems. The receptor that recognizes activated LUSH consists of a complex of several proteins, including Or67d, a member of the tuning odourant receptor family, Orco, a co-receptor ion channel, and SNMP, a CD36 homologue that may be an inhibitory subunit. In addition, genetic screens and reconstitution experiments reveal additional factors that are important for pheromone detection. Identification and functional dissection of these factors in Drosophila melanogaster Meigen should permit the identification of homologous factors in pathogenic insects and agricultural pests, which, in turn, may be viable candidates for novel classes of compounds to control populations of target insect species without impacting beneficial species.
PMCID: PMC3859522  PMID: 24347807
22.  A new male sex-pheromone and novel cuticular cues for chemical communication in Drosophila 
Current biology : CB  2009;19(15):1245-1254.
In many insect species, cuticular hydrocarbons serve as pheromones that can mediate complex social behaviors. In Drosophila melanogaster, several hydrocarbons including the male sex pheromone 11-cis-vaccenyl acetate (cVA) and female-specific 7,11-dienes influence courtship behavior and can function as cues for short-term memory associated with the mating experience. Behavioral and physiological studies suggest that other unidentified chemical communication cues are likely to exist. To more fully characterize the hydrocarbon profile of the D. melanogaster cuticle, we applied direct ultraviolet laser desorption/ionization orthogonal time-of-flight mass spectrometry (UV-LDI-o-TOF MS) and analyzed the surface of intact fruit flies at a spatial resolution of approximately 200 μm.
We report the chemical and spatial characterization of 28 species of cuticular hydrocarbons, including a new major class of oxygen-containing compounds. Using UV-LDI MS, pheromones previously shown to be expressed exclusively by one sex, e.g. cVA, 7,11-heptacosadiene, and 7,11-nonacosadiene, appear to be found on both male and female flies. In males, cVA co-localizes at the tip of the ejaculatory bulb with a second acetylated hydrocarbon named CH503. We describe the chemical structure of CH503 as 3-O-acetyl-1,3-dihydroxy-octacosa-11,19-diene and show one behavioral role for this compound as a long-lived inhibitor of male courtship. Like cVA, CH503 is transferred from males to females during mating. Unlike cVA, CH503 remains on the surface of females for at least 10 days.
Oxygenated hydrocarbons comprise one major previously undescribed class of compounds on the Drosophila cuticular surface. In addition to cVA, a newly-discovered long chain acetate, CH503, serves as a mediator of courtship-related chemical communication.
PMCID: PMC2726907  PMID: 19615904
23.  Heterotrimeric G protein subunit Gγ13 is critical to olfaction 
The activation of G-protein-coupled olfactory receptors on the olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs) triggers a signaling cascade, which is mediated by a heterotrimeric G protein consisting of α, β and γ subunits. Although its α subunit, Gαolf, has been identified and well characterized, the identities of its β and γ subunits and their function in olfactory signal transduction, however, have not been well established yet. We and others have found the expression of Gγ13 in the olfactory epithelium, particularly in the cilia of the OSNs. In this study, we generated a conditional gene knockout mouse line to specifically nullify Gγ13 expression in the olfactory marker protein-expressing OSNs. Immunohistochemical and Western blot results showed that Gγ13 subunit was indeed eliminated in the mutant mice’s olfactory epithelium. Intriguingly, Gαolf, β1 subunits, Ric-8B and CEP290 proteins were also absent in the epithelium whereas the presence of the effector enzyme adenylyl cyclase III remained largely unaltered. Electro-olfactogram studies showed that the mutant animals had greatly reduced responses to a battery of odorants including three presumable pheromones. Behavioral tests indicated that the mutant mice had a remarkably reduced ability to perform an odor-guided search task although their motivation and agility seemed normal. Our results indicate that Gαolf exclusively forms a functional heterotrimeric G protein with Gβ1 and Gγ13 in OSNs, mediating olfactory signal transduction. The identification of the olfactory G protein’s βγ moiety has provided a novel approach to understanding the feedback regulation of olfactory signal transduction pathways as well as the control of subcellular structures of OSNs.
PMCID: PMC3678349  PMID: 23637188
24.  Drosophila Pheromone-Sensing Neurons Expressing the ppk25 Ion Channel Subunit Stimulate Male Courtship and Female Receptivity 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(3):e1004238.
As in many species, gustatory pheromones regulate the mating behavior of Drosophila. Recently, several ppk genes, encoding ion channel subunits of the DEG/ENaC family, have been implicated in this process, leading to the identification of gustatory neurons that detect specific pheromones. In a subset of taste hairs on the legs of Drosophila, there are two ppk23-expressing, pheromone-sensing neurons with complementary response profiles; one neuron detects female pheromones that stimulate male courtship, the other detects male pheromones that inhibit male-male courtship. In contrast to ppk23, ppk25, is only expressed in a single gustatory neuron per taste hair, and males with impaired ppk25 function court females at reduced rates but do not display abnormal courtship of other males. These findings raised the possibility that ppk25 expression defines a subset of pheromone-sensing neurons. Here we show that ppk25 is expressed and functions in neurons that detect female-specific pheromones and mediates their stimulatory effect on male courtship. Furthermore, the role of ppk25 and ppk25-expressing neurons is not restricted to responses to female-specific pheromones. ppk25 is also required in the same subset of neurons for stimulation of male courtship by young males, males of the Tai2 strain, and by synthetic 7-pentacosene (7-P), a hydrocarbon normally found at low levels in both males and females. Finally, we unexpectedly find that, in females, ppk25 and ppk25-expressing cells regulate receptivity to mating. In the absence of the third antennal segment, which has both olfactory and auditory functions, mutations in ppk25 or silencing of ppk25-expressing neurons block female receptivity to males. Together these results indicate that ppk25 identifies a functionally specialized subset of pheromone-sensing neurons. While ppk25 neurons are required for the responses to multiple pheromones, in both males and females these neurons are specifically involved in stimulating courtship and mating.
Author Summary
Drosophila mating behaviors serve as an attractive model to understand how external sensory cues are detected and used to generate appropriate behavioral responses. Pheromones present on the cuticle of Drosophila have important roles in stimulating male courtship toward females and inhibiting male courtship directed at other males. Recently, stimulatory pheromones emitted by females and inhibitory pheromones emitted by males have been shown to stimulate distinct subsets of gustatory neurons on the legs. We have previously shown that a DEG/ENaC ion channel subunit, ppk25, is involved in male courtship toward females but not in inhibition of male-male courtship. Here we show that ppk25 is specifically expressed and functions in a subset of gustatory neurons that mediate physiological and behavioral responses to female-specific stimulatory pheromones. Furthermore, ppk25 is also required for the function of those neurons to activate male courtship in response to other pheromones that are not female-specific. In addition to their roles in males, we find that ppk25, and the related DEG/ENaC subunits ppk23 and ppk29, also stimulate female mating behavior. In conclusion, these results show that, in both sexes, ppk25 functions in a group of neurons with a specialized role in stimulating mating behaviors.
PMCID: PMC3967927  PMID: 24675786
25.  A Bidirectional Circuit Switch Reroutes Pheromone Signals in Male and Female Brains 
Cell  2013;155(7):1610-1623.
The Drosophila sex pheromone cVA elicits different behaviors in males and females. First- and second-order olfactory neurons show identical pheromone responses, suggesting that sex genes differentially wire circuits deeper in the brain. Using in vivo whole-cell electrophysiology, we now show that two clusters of third-order olfactory neurons have dimorphic pheromone responses. One cluster responds in females; the other responds in males. These clusters are present in both sexes and share a common input pathway, but sex-specific wiring reroutes pheromone information. Regulating dendritic position, the fruitless transcription factor both connects the male-responsive cluster and disconnects the female-responsive cluster from pheromone input. Selective masculinization of third-order neurons transforms their morphology and pheromone responses, demonstrating that circuits can be functionally rewired by the cell-autonomous action of a switch gene. This bidirectional switch, analogous to an electrical changeover switch, provides a simple circuit logic to activate different behaviors in males and females.
Graphical Abstract
•Two clusters of higher olfactory neurons show sex-specific responses to pheromone•Common sensory input is wired to a different cluster in each sex, rerouting information•Bidirectional circuit switch depends on dendritic location of third-order neurons•Circuit state determined by cell-autonomous action of a switch gene, fruitless
A circuitry change consisting of dendritic repositioning of third-order sensory neurons enables one pheromone to elicit differential responses in male and female flies. This bidirectional switch, analogous to an electrical changeover switch, provides a simple circuit logic to activate different behaviors in males and females.
PMCID: PMC3898676  PMID: 24360281

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