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.
Odorant-Degrading Enzymes (ODEs) are supposed to be involved in the signal inactivation step within the olfactory sensilla of insects by quickly removing odorant molecules from the vicinity of the olfactory receptors. Only three ODEs have been both identified at the molecular level and functionally characterized: two were specialized in the degradation of pheromone compounds and the last one was shown to degrade a plant odorant.
Previous work has shown that the antennae of the cotton leafworm Spodoptera littoralis, a worldwide pest of agricultural crops, express numerous candidate ODEs. We focused on an esterase overexpressed in males antennae, namely SlCXE7. We studied its expression patterns and tested its catalytic properties towards three odorants, i.e. the two female sex pheromone components and a green leaf volatile emitted by host plants.
SlCXE7 expression was concomitant during development with male responsiveness to odorants and during adult scotophase with the period of male most active sexual behaviour. Furthermore, SlCXE7 transcription could be induced by male exposure to the main pheromone component, suggesting a role of Pheromone-Degrading Enzyme. Interestingly, recombinant SlCXE7 was able to efficiently hydrolyze the pheromone compounds but also the plant volatile, with a higher affinity for the pheromone than for the plant compound. In male antennae, SlCXE7 expression was associated with both long and short sensilla, tuned to sex pheromones or plant odours, respectively. Our results thus suggested that a same ODE could have a dual function depending of it sensillar localisation. Within the pheromone-sensitive sensilla, SlCXE7 may play a role in pheromone signal termination and in reduction of odorant background noise, whereas it could be involved in plant odorant inactivation within the short sensilla.
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.
Carboxyl/cholinesterases (CCEs) have pivotal roles in dietary detoxification, pheromone or hormone degradation and neurodevelopment. The recent completion of genome projects in various insect species has led to the identification of multiple CCEs with unknown functions. Here, we analyzed the phylogeny, expression and genomic distribution of 69 putative CCEs in the silkworm, Bombyx mori (Lepidoptera: Bombycidae).
A phylogenetic tree of CCEs in B. mori and other lepidopteran species was constructed. The expression pattern of each B. mori CCE was also investigated by a search of an expressed sequence tag (EST) database, and the relationship between phylogeny and expression was analyzed. A large number of B. mori CCEs were identified from a midgut EST library. CCEs expressed in the midgut formed a cluster in the phylogenetic tree that included not only B. mori genes but also those of other lepidopteran species. The silkworm, and possibly also other lepidopteran species, has a large number of CCEs, and this might be a consequence of the large cluster of midgut CCEs. Investigation of intron-exon organization in B. mori CCEs revealed that their positions and splicing site phases were strongly conserved. Several B. mori CCEs, including juvenile hormone esterase, not only showed clustering in the phylogenetic tree but were also closely located on silkworm chromosomes. We investigated the phylogeny and microsynteny of neuroligins in detail, among many CCEs. Interestingly, we found the evolution of this gene appeared not to be conserved between B. mori and other insect orders.
We analyzed 69 putative CCEs from B. mori. Comparison of these CCEs with other lepidopteran CCEs indicated that they had conserved expression and function in this insect order. The analyses showed that CCEs were unevenly distributed across the genome of B. mori and suggested that neuroligins may have a distinct evolutionary history from other insect order. It is possible that such an uneven genomic distribution and a unique neuroligin evolution are shared with other lepidopteran insects. Our genomic analysis has provided novel information on the CCEs of the silkworm, which will be of value to understanding the biology, physiology and evolution of insect CCEs.
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
Within insect species, olfactory signals play a vital role in communication, particularly in the context of mating. During courtship, males of many moth species release pheromones that function as aphrodisiacs for conspecific females, or repellants to competing conspecific males. The physiology and antennal lobe projections are described of olfactory receptor neurons within an antennal sensillum present on male Heliothis virescens F. (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) moths sensitive to conspecific male H. virescens-produced pheromone components. Olfactory receptor neurons responded to hexadecanyl acetate and octadecanyl acetate hairpencil components, and Z11-hexadecenyl acetate, an odorant used by closely related heliothine species in their female produced pheromone, which is antagonistic to male H. virescens responses. This acetate-sensitive sensillum appears homologous to a sensillum type previously described in females of this species, sharing similar physiology and glomerular projection targets within the antennal lobe. Wind tunnel observations indicate that H. virescens hairpencil odors (hexadecanyl acetate, octadecanyl acetate) function to antagonize responses of conspecific males following a female sex pheromone plume. Thus, male-male flight antagonism in H. virescens appears to be mediated by this particular sensillum type.
Heliothis virescens; Lepidoptera; courtship; behavioral antagonist; cobalt-lysine staining; antennal lobe; olfactory receptor neuron
The males of some species of moths possess elaborate feathery antennae. It is widely assumed that these striking morphological features have evolved through selection for males with greater sensitivity to the female sex pheromone, which is typically released in minute quantities. Accordingly, females of species in which males have elaborate (i.e., pectinate, bipectinate, or quadripectinate) antennae should produce the smallest quantities of pheromone. Alternatively, antennal morphology may be associated with the chemical properties of the pheromone components, with elaborate antennae being associated with pheromones that diffuse more quickly (i.e., have lower molecular weights). Finally, antennal morphology may reflect population structure, with low population abundance selecting for higher sensitivity and hence more elaborate antennae. We conducted a phylogenetic comparative analysis to test these explanations using pheromone chemical data and trapping data for 152 moth species. Elaborate antennae are associated with larger body size (longer forewing length), which suggests a biological cost that smaller moth species cannot bear. Body size is also positively correlated with pheromone titre and negatively correlated with population abundance (estimated by male abundance). Removing the effects of body size revealed no association between the shape of antennae and either pheromone titre, male abundance, or mean molecular weight of the pheromone components. However, among species with elaborate antennae, longer antennae were typically associated with lower male abundances and pheromone compounds with lower molecular weight, suggesting that male distribution and a more rapidly diffusing female sex pheromone may influence the size but not the general shape of male antennae.
Antennal morphology; forewing length; Lepidoptera; phylogenetic generalized least squares; sex pheromone
Antennal olfaction is extremely important for insect survival, mediating key behaviors such as host preference, mate choice, and oviposition site selection. Multiple antennal proteins are involved in olfactory signal transduction pathways. Of these, odorant receptors (ORs) and ionotropic receptors (IRs) confer specificity on olfactory sensory neuron responses. In this study, we identified the olfactory gene repertoire of the economically important agricultural pest moth, Helicoverpa armigera, by assembling the adult male and female antennal transcriptomes. Within the male and female antennal transcriptomes we identified a total of 47 OR candidate genes containing 6 pheromone receptor candidates. Additionally, 12 IR genes as well as 26 odorant-binding proteins and 12 chemosensory proteins were annotated. Our results allow a systematic functional analysis across much of conventional ORs repertoire and newly reported IRs mediating the key olfaction-mediated behaviors of H. armigera.
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.
The codling moth, Cydia pomonella, is an important fruit pest worldwide. As nocturnal animals, adults depend to a large extent on olfactory cues for detection of food and mates, and, for females, oviposition sites. In insects, odor detection is mediated by odorant receptors (ORs) and ionotropic receptors (IRs), which ensure the specificity of the olfactory sensory neuron responses. In this study, our aim was to identify chemosensory receptors in the codling moth as a means to uncover new targets for behavioral interference. Using next-generation sequencing techniques, we identified a total of 43 candidate ORs, one gustatory receptor and 15 IRs in the antennal transcriptome. Through Blast and sequence similarity analyses we annotated the insect obligatory co-receptor ORco, five genes clustering in a conserved clade containing sex pheromone receptors, one homolog of the Bombyx mori female-enriched receptor BmorOR30 (but no homologs of the other B. mori female-enriched receptors) and one gene clustering in the sugar receptor family. Among the candidate IRs, we identified homologs of the two highly conserved co-receptors IR8a and IR25a, and one homolog of an IR involved in phenylethyl amine detection in Drosophila. Our results open for functional characterization of the chemosensory receptors of C. pomonella, with potential for new or refined applications of semiochemicals for control of this pest insect.
In insects and other animals, intraspecific communication between individuals of the opposite sex is mediated in part by chemical signals called sex pheromones. In most moth species, male moths rely heavily on species-specific sex pheromones emitted by female moths to identify and orient towards an appropriate mating partner among a large number of sympatric insect species. The silkmoth, Bombyx mori, utilizes the simplest possible pheromone system, in which a single pheromone component, (E, Z)-10,12-hexadecadienol (bombykol), is sufficient to elicit full sexual behavior. We have previously shown that the sex pheromone receptor BmOR1 mediates specific detection of bombykol in the antennae of male silkmoths. However, it is unclear whether the sex pheromone receptor is the minimally sufficient determination factor that triggers initiation of orientation behavior towards a potential mate. Using transgenic silkmoths expressing the sex pheromone receptor PxOR1 of the diamondback moth Plutella xylostella in BmOR1-expressing neurons, we show that the selectivity of the sex pheromone receptor determines the chemical response specificity of sexual behavior in the silkmoth. Bombykol receptor neurons expressing PxOR1 responded to its specific ligand, (Z)-11-hexadecenal (Z11-16:Ald), in a dose-dependent manner. Male moths expressing PxOR1 exhibited typical pheromone orientation behavior and copulation attempts in response to Z11-16:Ald and to females of P. xylostella. Transformation of the bombykol receptor neurons had no effect on their projections in the antennal lobe. These results indicate that activation of bombykol receptor neurons alone is sufficient to trigger full sexual behavior. Thus, a single gene defines behavioral selectivity in sex pheromone communication in the silkmoth. Our findings show that a single molecular determinant can not only function as a modulator of behavior but also as an all-or-nothing initiator of a complex species-specific behavioral sequence.
Like many animal species, moths use chemical signals called sex pheromones to communicate with conspecific individuals of the opposite sex in the context of reproduction. Typically, male moths depend on sex pheromones emitted by conspecific females to identify and locate their mates. Therefore, the behavioral preference of male moths to conspecific pheromones is a critical factor for successful reproduction. Sex pheromone receptor proteins expressed in specialized antennal olfactory receptor neurons reportedly play a central role in sex pheromone discrimination. However, the causal relationship between sex pheromone receptor specificity and behavioral preference remains to be proven. We have addressed this question in a genetically tractable moth species, the silkmoth (Bombyx mori), because this species possesses the simplest possible pheromone system in which a single pheromone substance, bombykol, elicits full sexual behavior. Using transgenic silkmoths expressing a sex pheromone receptor from another moth species, we revealed that solely the chemical specificity of the odorant receptors in bombykol receptor neurons determines the behavioral preference in male silkmoths. Our results show that the initiation of a complex programmed sexual behavior can depend on the properties of a single pheromone receptor gene expressed in a population of olfactory receptor neurons.
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
The antennal lobe (AL) of insects, like the olfactory bulb of vertebrates, is characterized by discrete modules of synaptic neuropil called glomeruli. In some insects (e.g. moths and cockroaches) a few glomeruli are sexually dimorphic and function in labeled lines for processing of sensory information about sex pheromones. Controversy still exists, however, about whether projection (output) neurons (PNs) of glomeruli in the main AL are also narrowly tuned. We examined this critical issue in the AL of the moth Manduca sexta. We used intracellular recording and staining techniques to investigate the chemosensory tuning of PNs innervating an identifiable, sexually isomorphic glomerulus, G35, in the main AL. We found that the morphological features and chemosensory tuning of G35-PNs were nearly identical in females and males. G35-PNs responded to low concentrations of the plant-derived volatile compound cis-3-hexenyl acetate (c3HA), but the sensitivity threshold of female PNs was lower than that of male PNs. The propionate and butyrate homologues of c3HA could evoke excitatory responses, but only at moderate-to-high concentrations. Other plant volatiles did not evoke responses from G35-PNs. Moreover, PNs innervating glomeruli near G35 (in females) showed little or no response to c3HA. Female G35-PNs were hyperpolarized by (±)linalool, a compound that excites PNs in an adjacent glomerulus, thus providing evidence for lateral-inhibitory interactions between glomeruli. Our results show that PNs arborizing in an identified glomerulus in the main olfactory pathway are morphologically and physiologically equivalent in both sexes and have characteristic, limited molecular receptive ranges that are highly conserved across individuals.
olfactory; glomerulus; chemosensory; microelectrode; odor; intracellular; insect
The primary olfactory centres of most vertebrates and most neopteran insects are characterized by the presence of spherical neuropils, glomeruli, where synaptic interactions between olfactory receptor neurons and second-order neurons take place. In the neopteran insect taxa investigated so far, receptor neurons of a specific physiological identity target one glomerulus and thus bestow a functional identity on the glomerulus. In moths, input from pheromone-specific receptor neurons is received in a male-specific structure of the antennal lobe, called the macroglomerular complex (MGC), which consists of a number of specialized glomeruli. Each glomerulus of the complex receives a set of peripheral sensory afferents that encode one of several compounds involved in sexual communication. The complex is also innervated by dendritic branches of antennal lobe output neurons called projection neurons, which transfer information from the antennal lobe to higher centres of the brain. A hypothesis stemming from earlier work on moths claims that the receptor neuron innervation pattern of the MGC should be reflected in the pattern of dendrites of projection neurons invading the different MGC glomeruli. In this study we show that in the noctuid moth Trichoplusia ni, as in several other noctuid moth species, this hypothesis does not hold. The degree of matching between axon terminals of receptor neurons and the dendritic branches of identified projection neurons that express similar physiological specificity is very low.
Each down stroke of an insect's wings accelerates axial airflow over the antennae. Modeling studies suggest that this can greatly enhance penetration of air and air-born odorants through the antennal sensilla thereby periodically increasing odorant-receptor interactions. Do these periodic changes result in entrainment of neural responses in the antenna and antennal lobe (AL)? Does this entrainment affect olfactory acuity? To address these questions, we monitored antennal and AL responses in the moth Manduca sexta while odorants were pulsed at frequencies from 10–72 Hz, encompassing the natural wingbeat frequency. Power spectral density (PSD) analysis was used to identify entrainment of neural activity. Statistical analysis of PSDs indicates that the antennal nerve tracked pulsed odor up to 30 Hz. Furthermore, at least 50% of AL local field potentials (LFPs) and between 7–25% of unitary spiking responses also tracked pulsed odor up to 30 Hz in a frequency-locked manner. Application of bicuculline (200 μM) abolished pulse tracking in both LFP and unitary responses suggesting that GABAA receptor activation is necessary for pulse tracking within the AL. Finally, psychophysical measures of odor detection establish that detection thresholds are lowered when odor is pulsed at 20 Hz. These results suggest that AL networks can respond to the oscillatory dynamics of stimuli such as those imposed by the wing beat in a manner analogous to mammalian sniffing.
olfaction; oscillations; synchrony; GABA; antennal lobe; olfactory bulb; sniffing; sensory sampling
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.
Male moths respond to conspecific female-released pheromones with remarkable sensitivity and specificity, due to highly specialized chemosensory neurons in their antennae. In Antheraea silkmoths, three types of sensory neurons have been described, each responsive to one of three pheromone components. Since also three different pheromone binding proteins (PBPs) have been identified, the antenna of Antheraea seems to provide a unique model system for detailed analyzes of the interplay between the various elements underlying pheromone reception. Efforts to identify pheromone receptors of Antheraea polyphemus have led to the identification of a candidate pheromone receptor (ApolOR1). This receptor was found predominantly expressed in male antennae, specifically in neurons located beneath pheromone-sensitive sensilla trichodea. The ApolOR1-expressing cells were found to be surrounded by supporting cells co-expressing all three ApolPBPs. The response spectrum of ApolOR1 was assessed by means of calcium imaging using HEK293-cells stably expressing the receptor. It was found that at nanomolar concentrations ApolOR1-cells responded to all three pheromones when the compounds were solubilized by DMSO and also when DMSO was substituted by one of the three PBPs. However, at picomolar concentrations, cells responded only in the presence of the subtype ApolPBP2 and the pheromone (E,Z)-6,11-hexadecadienal. These results are indicative of a specific interplay of a distinct pheromone component with an appropriate binding protein and its related receptor subtype, which may be considered as basis for the remarkable sensitivity and specificity of the pheromone detection system.
Insect; olfaction; pheromone detection; receptor; pheromone binding protein
Tremendous evolutional success and the ecological dominance of social insects, including ants, termites and social bees, are due to their efficient social organizations and their underlying communication systems. Functional division into reproductive and sterile castes, cooperation in defending the nest, rearing the young and gathering food are all regulated by communication by means of various kinds of pheromones. No brain structures specifically involved in the processing of non-sexual pheromone have been physiologically identified in any social insects. By use of intracellular recording and staining techniques, we studied responses of projection neurons of the antennal lobe (primary olfactory centre) of ants to alarm pheromone, which plays predominant roles in colony defence. Among 23 alarm pheromone-sensitive projection neurons recorded and stained in this study, eight were uniglomerular projection neurons with dendrites in one glomerulus, a structural unit of the antennal lobe, and the remaining 15 were multiglomerular projection neurons with dendrites in multiple glomeruli. Notably, all alarm pheromone-sensitive uniglomerular projection neurons had dendrites in one of five ‘alarm pheromone-sensitive (AS)’ glomeruli that form a cluster in the dorsalmost part of the antennal lobe. All alarm pheromone-sensitive multiglomerular projection neurons had dendrites in some of the AS glomeruli as well as in glomeruli in the anterodorsal area of the antennal lobe. The results suggest that components of alarm pheromone are processed in a specific cluster of glomeruli in the antennal lobe of ants.
social insects; alarm pheromone; antennal lobe; olfactory centre; pheromone communication
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.
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
Infochemical production, release and detection of (Z,E)-9,11-tetradecadienyl acetate, the major component of the pheromone of the moth Spodoptera littoralis, is achieved in a novel microfluidic system designed to mimic the final step of the pheromone biosynthesis by immobilized recombinant alcohol acetyl transferase. The microfluidic system is part of an “artificial gland”, i.e., a chemoemitter that comprises a microreactor connected to a microevaporator and is able to produce and release a pre-defined amount of the major component of the pheromone from the corresponding (Z,E)-9,11-tetradecadienol. Performance of the entire chemoemitter has been assessed in electrophysiological and behavioral experiments. Electroantennographic depolarizations of the pheromone produced by the chemoemitter were ca. 40% relative to that evoked by the synthetic pheromone. In a wind tunnel, the pheromone released from the evaporator elicited on males a similar attraction behavior as 3 virgin females in most of the parameters considered.
The Chinese pine caterpillar moth, Dendrolimus tabulaeformis Tsai and Liu (Lepidoptera: Lasiocampidae) is the most important defoliator of coniferous trees in northern China. Outbreaks occur over enormous areas and often lead to the death of forests during 2–3 successive years of defoliation. The sex pheromone of D. tabulaeformis was investigated to define its chemistry and behavioral activity.
Sex pheromone was collected from calling female D. tabulaeformis by headspace solid phase microextraction (SPME) and by solvent extraction of pheromone glands. Extracts were analyzed by coupled gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC-MS) and coupled GC-electroantennographic detection (GC-EAD), using antennae from male moths. Five components from the extracts elicited antennal responses. These compounds were identified by a combination of retention indices, electron impact mass spectral matches, and derivatization as (Z)-5-dodecenyl acetate (Z5-12:OAc), (Z)-5-dodecenyl alcohol (Z5-12:OH), (5Z,7E)-5,7-dodecadien-1-yl acetate (Z5,E7-12:OAc), (5Z,7E)-5,7-dodecadien-1-yl propionate (Z5,E7-12:OPr), and (5Z,7E)-5,7-dodecadien-1-ol (Z5,E7-12:OH). Behavioral assays showed that male D. tabulaeformis strongly discriminated against incomplete and aberrant blend ratios. The correct ratio of Z5,E7-12:OAc, Z5,E7-12:OH, and Z5,E7-12:OPr was essential for optimal upwind flight and source contact. The two monoenes, Z5-12:OAc and Z5-12:OH, alone or binary mixtures, had no effect on behavioral responses when added to the optimal three-component blend.
The fact that deviations from the optimal ratio of 100∶100∶4.5 of Z5,E7-12:OAc, Z5,EZ7-12:OH, and Z5,E7-12:OPr resulted in marked decreases in male responses suggests that biosynthesis of the pheromone components is precisely controlled. The optimal blend of the sex pheromone components of D. tabulaeformis worked out in this study should find immediate use in monitoring this pest in Chinese forests.
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
Mating is costly for both male and female insects and should therefore only occur if it is likely to be successful. Within one scotophase, which is the dark period of the light cycle, male moths can only produce one single spermatophore, which is transferred to the female during mating. Remating within the same scotophase would thus be unsuccessful. We tested the hypothesis that newly mated males of the moth Agrotis ipsilon have developed an energy-saving strategy based on the transient inhibition of their sexual behaviour, thus avoiding unsuccessful remating. Agrotis ipsilon males do not copulate more than once during the same scotophase. Moreover, newly mated males do not respond behaviourally to the female sex pheromone although electroantennograms showed that their peripheral olfactory system is fully functional. However, intracellular recordings of antennal lobe neurons showed that the sensitivity for the synthetic sex pheromone blend decreased as compared with that of unmated males. Both the sexual behaviour and the sensitivity of the antennal lobe neurons were restored when tested during the next scotophase. Our results show a fast, transient neuronal plasticity that 'switches off' the olfactory system, which could prevent males from mating unsuccessfully.
Cotesia vestalis is an endoparasitic wasp that attacks larvae of the diamondback moth (Plutella xylostella), a herbivore of cruciferous plants. Females of C. vestalis use herbivore-induced plant odorants released from plants infested by P. xylostella as a host-searching cue. Transcriptome pyrosequencing was used to identify genes in the antennae of C. vestalis adult females coding for odorant receptors (ORs) and odorant binding proteins (OBPs) involved in insect olfactory perception. Quantitative gene expression analyses showed that a few OR and OBP genes were expressed exclusively in the antenna of C. vestalis adult females whereas most other classes of genes were expressed in the antennae of both males and females, indicating their diversity in importance for the olfactory sensory system. Together, transcriptome profiling of C. vestalis genes involved in the antennal odorant-sensory system helps in detecting genes involved in host- and food-search behaviors through infochemically-mediated interactions.