We investigated the navigational capabilities of the world's largest land-living arthropod, the giant robber crab Birgus latro (Anomura, Coenobitidae); this crab reaches 4 kg in weight and can reach an age of up to 60 years. Populations are distributed over small Indo-Pacific islands of the tropics, including Christmas Island (Indian Ocean). Although this species has served as a crustacean model to explore anatomical, physiological, and ecological aspects of terrestrial adaptations, few behavioral analyses of it exist. We used a GPS-based telemetric system to analyze movements of freely roaming robber crabs, the first large-scale study of any arthropod using GPS technology to monitor behavior. Although female robber crabs are known to migrate to the coast for breeding, no such observations have been recorded for male animals. In total, we equipped 55 male robber crabs with GPS tags, successfully recording more than 1,500 crab days of activity, and followed some individual animals for as long as three months. Besides site fidelity with short-distance excursions, our data reveal long-distance movements (several kilometers) between the coast and the inland rainforest. These movements are likely related to mating, saltwater drinking and foraging. The tracking patterns indicate that crabs form route memories. Furthermore, translocation experiments show that robber crabs are capable of homing over large distances. We discuss if the search behavior induced in these experiments suggests path integration as another important navigation strategy.
In the olfactory system of malacostracan crustaceans, axonal input from olfactory receptor neurons associated with aesthetascs on the animal’s first pair of antennae target primary processing centers in the median brain, the olfactory lobes. The olfactory lobes are divided into cone-shaped synaptic areas, the olfactory glomeruli where afferents interact with local olfactory interneurons and olfactory projection neurons. The local olfactory interneurons display a large diversity of neurotransmitter phenotypes including biogenic amines and neuropeptides. Furthermore, the malacostracan olfactory glomeruli are regionalized into cap, subcap, and base regions and these compartments are defined by the projection patterns of the afferent olfactory receptor neurons, the local olfactory interneurons, and the olfactory projection neurons. We wanted to know how neurons expressing A-type allatostatins (A-ASTs; synonym dip-allatostatins) integrate into this system, a large family of neuropeptides that share the C-terminal motif –YXFGLamide.
We used an antiserum that was raised against the A-type Diploptera punctata (Dip)-allatostatin I to analyse the distribution of this peptide in the brain of a terrestrial hermit crab, Coenobita clypeatus (Anomura, Coenobitidae). Allatostatin A-like immunoreactivity (ASTir) was widely distributed in the animal’s brain, including the visual system, central complex and olfactory system. We focussed our analysis on the central olfactory pathway in which ASTir was abundant in the primary processing centers, the olfactory lobes, and also in the secondary centers, the hemiellipsoid bodies. In the olfactory lobes, we further explored the spatial relationship of olfactory interneurons with ASTir to interneurons that synthesize RFamide-like peptides. We found that these two peptides are present in distinct populations of local olfactory interneurons and that their synaptic fields within the olfactory glomeruli are also mostly distinct.
We discuss our findings against the background of the known neurotransmitter complexity in the crustacean olfactory pathway and summarize what is now about the neuronal connectivity in the olfactory glomeruli. A-type allatostatins, in addition to their localization in protocerebral brain areas, seem to be involved in modulating the olfactory signal at the level of the deutocerebrum. They contribute to the complex local circuits within the crustacean olfactory glomeruli the connectivity within which as yet is completely unclear. Because the glomeruli of C. clypeatus display a distinct pattern of regionalization, their olfactory systems form an ideal model to explore the functional relevance of glomerular compartments and diversity of local olfactory interneurons for olfactory processing in crustaceans.
Coenobita clypeatus; Hermit crab; Olfactory lobe; Central complex; Neuropeptide; Immunhistochemistry; Allatostatin
Below ground orientation in insects relies mainly on olfaction and taste. The economic impact of plant root feeding scarab beetle larvae gave rise to numerous phylogenetic and ecological studies. Detailed knowledge of the sensory capacities of these larvae is nevertheless lacking. Here, we present an atlas of the sensory organs on larval head appendages of Melolontha melolontha. Our ultrastructural and electrophysiological investigations allow annotation of functions to various sensory structures.
Three out of 17 ascertained sensillum types have olfactory, and 7 gustatory function. These sensillum types are unevenly distributed between antennae and palps. The most prominent chemosensory organs are antennal pore plates that in total are innervated by approximately one thousand olfactory sensory neurons grouped into functional units of three-to-four. In contrast, only two olfactory sensory neurons innervate one sensillum basiconicum on each of the palps. Gustatory sensilla chaetica dominate the apices of all head appendages, while only the palps bear thermo-/hygroreceptors. Electrophysiological responses to CO2, an attractant for many root feeders, are exclusively observed in the antennae. Out of 54 relevant volatile compounds, various alcohols, acids, amines, esters, aldehydes, ketones and monoterpenes elicit responses in antennae and palps. All head appendages are characterized by distinct olfactory response profiles that are even enantiomer specific for some compounds.
Chemosensory capacities in M. melolontha larvae are as highly developed as in many adult insects. We interpret the functional sensory units underneath the antennal pore plates as cryptic sensilla placodea and suggest that these perceive a broad range of secondary plant metabolites together with CO2. Responses to olfactory stimulation of the labial and maxillary palps indicate that typical contact chemo-sensilla have a dual gustatory and olfactory function.
The ability to identify chemical cues in the environment is essential to most animals. Apart from marine larval stages, anomuran land hermit crabs (Coenobita) have evolved different degrees of terrestriality, and thus represent an excellent opportunity to investigate adaptations of the olfactory system needed for a successful transition from aquatic to terrestrial life. Although superb processing capacities of the central olfactory system have been indicated in Coenobita and their olfactory system evidently is functional on land, virtually nothing was known about what type of odourants are detected. Here, we used electroantennogram (EAG) recordings in Coenobita clypeatus and established the olfactory response spectrum. Interestingly, different chemical groups elicited EAG responses of opposite polarity, which also appeared for Coenobita compressus and the closely related marine hermit crab Pagurus bernhardus. Furthermore, in a two-choice bioassay with C. clypeatus, we found that water vapour was critical for natural and synthetic odourants to induce attraction or repulsion. Strikingly, also the physiological response was found much greater at higher humidity in C. clypeatus, whereas no such effect appeared in the terrestrial vinegar fly Drosophila melanogaster. In conclusion, our results reveal that the Coenobita olfactory system is restricted to a limited number of water-soluble odourants, and that high humidity is most critical for its function.
olfaction; olfactory system; adaptations; terrestrial crustaceans; odourants
In mosquitoes, the olfactory system plays a crucial role in many types of behavior, including nectar feeding, host preference selection and oviposition. Aedes albopictus, known also as the tiger mosquito, is an anthropophilic species, which in the last few years, due to its strong ecological plasticity, has spread throughout the world. Although long considered only a secondary vector of viruses, the potential of its vector capacity may constitute a threat to public health. Based on the idea that an improved understanding of the olfactory system of mosquitoes may assist in the development of control methods that interfere with their behavior, we have undertaken a study aimed at characterizing the A. albopictus Odorant Receptors. Here we report the identification, cloning and functional characterization of the AalOR2 ortholog, that represents the first candidate member of the odorant receptor (OR) family of proteins from A. albopictus. AalOR2 is expressed in the larval heads and antennae of adults. Our data indicate that A. albopictus OR2 (AalOR2) shares a high degree of identity with other mosquito OR2 orthologs characterized to date, confirming that OR2 is one of the most conserved mosquito ORs. Our data indicate that AalOR2 is narrowly tuned to indole, and inhibited by (-)-menthone. In agreement with this results, these two compounds elicit two opposite effects on the olfactory-based behavior of A. albopictus larvae, as determined through a larval behavioral assay. In summary, this work has led to the cloning and de-orphaning of the first Odorant Receptor in the tiger mosquito A. albopictus. In future control strategies this receptor may be used as a potential molecular target.
Blood-feeding insects such as mosquitoes are efficient vectors of human infectious diseases because they are strongly attracted by body heat, carbon dioxide, and odours produced by their vertebrate hosts. Insect repellents containing DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) are highly effective, but the mechanism by which this chemical wards off biting insects remains controversial despite decades of investigation1-11. DEET appears to act both at close range as a contact chemorepellent by acting on insect gustatory receptors12 and at long range by acting on the olfactory system1-11. Two opposing mechanisms for the observed behavioural effects of DEET in the gas phase have been proposed: that DEET interferes with the olfactory system to block host odour recognition1-7 or that DEET actively repels insects by activating olfactory neurons that elicit avoidance behaviour8-11. Here we show that the insect repellent DEET functions as a modulator of the odour-gated ion channel formed by the insect odorant receptor (OR) complex13, 14. The functional insect OR complex consists of a common co-receptor, Orco (ref. 15, formerly called Or83b, ref16), and one or more variable OR subunits that confer odour-selectivity17. DEET acts on this complex to potentiate or inhibit odour-evoked activity or to inhibit odour-evoked suppression of spontaneous activity. This modulation depends on the specific OR and the concentration and identity of the odour ligand. We identify a single amino acid polymorphism in the second transmembrane domain of Or59b in a Drosophila melanogaster strain from Brazil that renders this receptor insensitive to inhibition by the odour ligand and modulation by DEET. These data provide the first evidence that natural variation can modify the sensitivity of an odour-specific insect OR to odour ligands and DEET. Our data support the hypothesis that DEET acts as a molecular “confusant” that scrambles the insect odour code and provide a compelling explanation for the broad-spectrum efficacy of DEET against multiple insect species.
Most insects are dependent on chemical communication for activities such as mate finding or host location. Several plants, and especially orchids, mimic insect semiochemicals to attract insects for unrewarded pollination. Here, we present a new case of pheromone mimicry found in the terrestrial orchid Epipactis veratrifolia. Flowers are visited and pollinated by several species of aphidophagous hoverflies, the females of which also often lay eggs in the flowers. The oviposition behaviour of these hoverflies is mainly guided by aphid-derived kairomones. We show that the flowers produce α- and β-pinene, β-myrcene and β-phellandrene, and that these compounds attract and induce oviposition behaviour in female hoverflies. This floral odour profile is remarkably similar to the alarm pheromone released by several aphid species, such as Megoura viciae. We therefore suggest that E. veratrifolia mimics aphid alarm pheromones to attract hoverflies for pollination; this is the first time, to our knowledge, that such a case of mimicry has been demonstrated.
deceptive pollination; chemical mimicry; pheromone
How can odor-guided behavior of numerous individual Drosophila be assessed
automatically with high temporal resolution? For this purpose we introduce the
automatic integrated tracking and odor-delivery system Flywalk. In fifteen
aligned small wind tunnels individual flies are exposed to repeated odor pulses,
well defined in concentration and timing. The flies' positions are visually tracked,
which allows quantification of the odor-evoked walking behavior with high temporal
resolution of up to 100 ms. As a demonstration of Flywalk we show that the
flies' behavior is odorant-specific; attractive odors elicit directed upwind
movements, while repellent odors evoke decreased activity, followed by downwind
movements. These changes in behavior differ between sexes. Furthermore our findings
show that flies can evaluate the sex of a conspecific and males can determine a
female's mating status based on olfactory cues. Consequently, Flywalk allows
automatic screening of individual flies for their olfactory preference and
The mushroom bodies of the insect brain play an important role in olfactory processing, associative learning and memory. The mushroom bodies show odor-specific spatial patterns of activity and are also influenced by visual stimuli.
Functional imaging was used to investigate changes in the in vivo responses of the mushroom body of the hawkmoth Manduca sexta during multimodal discrimination training. A visual and an odour stimulus were presented either together or individually. Initially, mushroom body activation patterns were identical to the odour stimulus and the multimodal stimulus. After training, however, the mushroom body response to the rewarded multimodal stimulus was significantly lower than the response to the unrewarded unimodal odour stimulus, indicating that the coding of the stimuli had changed as a result of training. The opposite pattern was seen when only the unimodal odour stimulus was rewarded. In this case, the mushroom body was more strongly activated by the multimodal stimuli after training. When no stimuli were rewarded, the mushroom body activity decreased for both the multimodal and unimodal odour stimuli. There was no measurable response to the unimodal visual stimulus in any of the experiments. These results can be explained using a connectionist model where the mushroom body is assumed to be excited by olfactory stimulus components, and suppressed by multimodal configurations.
Discrimination training with multimodal stimuli consisting of visual and odour cues leads to stimulus specific changes in the in vivo responses of the mushroom body of the hawkmoth.
The desert ants Cataglyphis navigate not only by path integration but also by using visual and olfactory landmarks to pinpoint the nest entrance. Here we show that Cataglyphis noda can additionally use magnetic and vibrational landmarks as nest-defining cues. The magnetic field may typically provide directional rather than positional information, and vibrational signals so far have been shown to be involved in social behavior. Thus it remains questionable if magnetic and vibration landmarks are usually provided by the ants' habitat as nest-defining cues. However, our results point to the flexibility of the ants' navigational system, which even makes use of cues that are probably most often sensed in a different context.
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
In the decapod crustacean brain, neurogenesis persists throughout the animal's life. After embryogenesis, the central olfactory pathway integrates newborn olfactory local and projection interneurons that replace old neurons or expand the existing population. In crayfish, these neurons are the descendants of precursor cells residing in a neurogenic niche. In this paper, the development of the niche was documented by monitoring proliferating cells with S-phase-specific markers combined with immunohistochemical, dye-injection and pulse-chase experiments.
Between the end of embryogenesis and throughout the first post-embryonic stage (POI), a defined transverse band of mitotically active cells (which we will term 'the deutocerebral proliferative system' (DPS) appears. Just prior to hatching and in parallel with the formation of the DPS, the anlagen of the niche appears, closely associated with the vasculature. When the hatchling molts to the second post-embryonic stage (POII), the DPS differentiates into the lateral (LPZ) and medial (MPZ) proliferative zones. The LPZ and MPZ are characterized by a high number of mitotically active cells from the beginning of post-embryonic life; in contrast, the developing niche contains only very few dividing cells, a characteristic that persists in the adult organism.
Our data suggest that the LPZ and MPZ are largely responsible for the production of new neurons in the early post-embryonic stages, and that the neurogenic niche in the beginning plays a subordinate role. However, as the neuroblasts in the proliferation zones disappear during early post-embryonic life, the neuronal precursors in the niche gradually become the dominant and only mechanism for the generation of new neurons in the adult brain.
Originating from a marine ancestor, the myriapods most likely invaded land independently of the hexapods. As these two evolutionary lineages conquered land in parallel but separately, we are interested in comparing the myriapod chemosensory system to that of hexapods to gain insights into possible adaptations for olfaction in air. Our study connects to a previous analysis of the brain and behavior of the chilopod (centipede) Scutigera coleoptrata in which we demonstrated that these animals do respond to volatile substances and analyzed the structure of their central olfactory pathway.
Here, we examined the architecture of the deutocerebral brain areas (which process input from the antennae) in seven additional representatives of the Chilopoda, covering all major subtaxa, by histology, confocal laser-scan microscopy, and 3D reconstruction. We found that in all species that we studied the majority of antennal afferents target two separate neuropils, the olfactory lobe (chemosensory, composed of glomerular neuropil compartments) and the corpus lamellosum (mechanosensory). The numbers of olfactory glomeruli in the different chilopod taxa ranged from ca. 35 up to ca. 90 and the shape of the glomeruli ranged from spheroid across ovoid or drop-shape to elongate.
A split of the afferents from the (first) pair of antennae into separate chemosensory and mechanosensory components is also typical for Crustacea and Hexapoda, but this set of characters is absent in Chelicerata. We suggest that this character set strongly supports the Mandibulata hypothesis (Myriapoda + (Crustacea + Hexapoda)) as opposed to the Myriochelata concept (Myriapoda + Chelicerata). The evolutionary implications of our findings, particularly the plasticity of glomerular shape, are discussed.
Neural responses to odor blends often exhibit non-linear interactions to blend components. The first olfactory processing center in insects, the antennal lobe (AL), exhibits a complex network connectivity. We attempt to determine if non-linear blend interactions can arise purely as a function of the AL network connectivity itself, without necessitating additional factors such as competitive ligand binding at the periphery or intrinsic cellular properties. To assess this, we compared blend interactions among responses from single neurons recorded intracellularly in the AL of the moth Manduca sexta with those generated using a population-based computational model constructed from the morphologically based connectivity pattern of projection neurons (PNs) and local interneurons (LNs) with randomized connection probabilities from which we excluded detailed intrinsic neuronal properties. The model accurately predicted most of the proportions of blend interaction types observed in the physiological data. Our simulations also indicate that input from LNs is important in establishing both the type of blend interaction and the nature of the neuronal response (excitation or inhibition) exhibited by AL neurons. For LNs, the only input that significantly impacted the blend interaction type was received from other LNs, while for PNs the input from olfactory sensory neurons and other PNs contributed agonistically with the LN input to shape the AL output. Our results demonstrate that non-linear blend interactions can be a natural consequence of AL connectivity, and highlight the importance of lateral inhibition as a key feature of blend coding to be addressed in future experimental and computational studies.
olfaction; computational modeling; neural circuits; mixture processing; synaptic input; inhibitory interneurons; Manduca sexta
Chemical senses are crucial for all organisms to detect various environmental information. Different protein families, expressed in chemosensory organs, are involved in the detection of this information, such as odorant-binding proteins, olfactory and gustatory receptors, and ionotropic receptors. We recently reported an Expressed Sequence Tag (EST) approach on male antennae of the noctuid moth, Spodoptera littoralis, with which we could identify a large array of chemosensory genes in a species for which no genomic data are available.
Here we describe a complementary EST project on female antennae in the same species. 18,342 ESTs were sequenced and their assembly with our previous male ESTs led to a total of 13,685 unigenes, greatly improving our description of the S. littoralis antennal transcriptome. Gene ontology comparison between male and female data suggested a similar complexity of antennae of both sexes. Focusing on chemosensation, we identified 26 odorant-binding proteins, 36 olfactory and 5 gustatory receptors, expressed in the antennae of S. littoralis. One of the newly identified gustatory receptors appeared as female-enriched. Together with its atypical tissue-distribution, this suggests a role in oviposition. The compilation of male and female antennal ESTs represents a valuable resource for exploring the mechanisms of olfaction in S. littoralis.
Olfactory receptor; Gustatory receptor; Odorant-binding protein; Expressed sequence tag; Lepidoptera; Spodoptera littoralis.
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
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.
odorant receptors; ionotropic receptors; pulse resolution; single sensillum recording
Organisms are attacked by different natural enemies present in their habitat. While enemies such as parasitoids and predators will kill their hosts/preys when they successfully attack them, enemies such as micropredators will not entirely consume their prey. However, they can still have important consequences on the performance and ecology of the prey, such as reduced growth, increased emigration, disease transmission.
In this paper, we investigated the impact of a terrestrial micropredator, the yellow fever mosquito Aedes aegypti, on its unusual invertebrate host, the Egyptian cotton leaf worm, Spodoptera littoralis. Larvae developing in presence of mosquitoes showed a slower development and reached a smaller pupal weight when compared to a control without mosquitoes, apparently because of a reduced feeding time for larvae. In addition, larvae tended to leave the plant in presence of mosquitoes.
These results suggest that mosquitoes act as micropredators and affects lepidopteran larvae behaviour and development. Ecological impacts such as higher risks of food depletion and longer exposure to natural enemies are likely to be costly consequences. The importance of this phenomenon in nature – the possible function as last resort when vertebrates are unavailable – and the evolutionary aspects are discussed.
Butterflies are believed to use mainly visual cues when searching for food and oviposition sites despite that their olfactory system is morphologically similar to their nocturnal relatives, the moths. The olfactory ability in butterflies has, however, not been thoroughly investigated. Therefore, we performed the first study of odour representation in the primary olfactory centre, the antennal lobes, of butterflies. Host plant range is highly variable within the butterfly family Nymphalidae, with extreme specialists and wide generalists found even among closely related species. Here we measured odour evoked Ca2+ activity in the antennal lobes of two nymphalid species with diverging host plant preferences, the specialist Aglais urticae and the generalist Polygonia c-album. The butterflies responded with stimulus-specific combinations of activated glomeruli to single plant-related compounds and to extracts of host and non-host plants. In general, responses were similar between the species. However, the specialist A. urticae responded more specifically to its preferred host plant, stinging nettle, than P. c-album. In addition, we found a species-specific difference both in correlation between responses to two common green leaf volatiles and the sensitivity to these compounds. Our results indicate that these butterflies have the ability to detect and to discriminate between different plant-related odorants.
Insect odorant receptors (ORs) have a unique design of heterodimers formed by an olfactory receptor protein and the ion channel Orco. Heterologously expressed insect ORs are activated via an ionotropic and a metabotropic pathway that leads to cAMP production and activates the Orco channel. The contribution of metabotropic signaling to the insect odor response remains to be elucidated. Disruption of the Gq protein signaling cascade reduces the odor response (Kain et al., 2008). We investigated this phenomenon in HEK293 cells expressing Drosophila Orco and found that phospholipase C (PLC) inhibition reduced the sensitivity of Orco to cAMP. A similar effect was seen upon inhibition of protein kinase C (PKC), whereas PKC stimulation activated Orco even in the absence of cAMP. Mutation of the five PKC phosphorylation sites in Orco almost completely eliminated sensitivity to cAMP. To test the impact of PKC activity in vivo we combined single sensillum electrophysiological recordings with microinjection of agents affecting PLC and PKC function and observed an altered response of olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs) to odorant stimulation. Injection of the PLC inhibitor U73122 or the PKC inhibitor Gö6976 into sensilla reduced the OSN response to odor pulses. Conversely, injection of the PKC activators OAG, a diacylglycerol analog, or phorbol myristate acetate (PMA) enhanced the odor response. We conclude that metabotropic pathways affecting the phosphorylation state of Orco regulate OR function and thereby shape the OSN odor response.
insect odorant receptor; Drosophila; Or83b; orco; G protein; cAMP; phosphorylation; single sensillum recording
Animals typically perceive natural odor cues in their olfactory environment as a complex mixture of chemically diverse components. In insects, the initial representation of an odor mixture occurs in the first olfactory center of the brain, the antennal lobe (AL). The contribution of single neurons to the processing of complex mixtures in insects, and in particular moths, is still largely unknown. Using a novel multicomponent stimulus system to equilibrate component and mixture concentrations according to vapor pressure, we performed intracellular recordings of projection and interneurons in an attempt to quantitatively characterize mixture representation and integration properties of single AL neurons in the moth. We found that the fine spatiotemporal representation of 2–7 component mixtures among single neurons in the AL revealed a highly combinatorial, non-linear process for coding host mixtures presumably shaped by the AL network: 82% of mixture responding projection neurons and local interneurons showed non-linear spike frequencies in response to a defined host odor mixture, exhibiting an array of interactions including suppression, hypoadditivity, and synergism. Our results indicate that odor mixtures are represented by each cell as a unique combinatorial representation, and there is no general rule by which the network computes the mixture in comparison to single components. On the single neuron level, we show that those differences manifest in a variety of parameters, including the spatial location, frequency, latency, and temporal pattern of the response kinetics.
odor processing; network; intracellular; electrophysiological recording; single cell
The European corn borer (ECB), Ostrinia nubilalis, is a textbook example of pheromone polymorphism. Males of the two strains (Z and E) prefer opposite ratios of the two pheromone components, Z11- and E11-tetradecenyl acetate, with a sex-linked factor underlying this difference in preference. The male antennal lobes of the two strains contain a pheromone sensitive macroglomerular complex (MGC) that is identical in morphology, but reversed in functional topology. However, hybrids prefer intermediate ratios. How a topological arrangement of two glomeruli can accommodate for an intermediate preference was unclear. Therefore we studied the neurophysiology of hybrids and paternal backcrosses to see which factors correlated with male behavior.
Projection neuron (PN) recordings and stainings in hybrids and backcrosses show a dominance of the E-type MGC topology, notwithstanding their intermediate preference. Apparently, the topological arrangement of glomeruli does not directly dictate preference. However, two other factors did correlated very well with preference. First, volumetric measurements of MGC glomeruli demonstrate that, whereas in the parental strains the medial MGC glomerulus is more than 2 times larger than the lateral, in hybrids they are intermediate between the parents, i.e. equally sized. Paternal backcrosses showed that the volume ratio is sex-linked and co-dominant. Second, we measured the summed potential difference of the antennae in response to pheromone stimulation using electroantennogram recordings (EAG). Z-strain antennae responded 2.5 times stronger to Z11 than to E11-14:OAc, whereas in E-strain antennae the ratio was approximately equal. Hybrid responses were intermediate to the parents, and also here the antennal response of the paternal backcrosses followed a pattern similar to the behavioral phenotype. We found no differences in frequency and types of projection and local interneurons encountered between the two strains and their hybrids.
Male pheromone preference in the ECB strains serves as a strong prezygotic reproductive isolation mechanism, and has contributed to population divergence in the field. Our results demonstrate that male pheromone preference is not directly affected by the topological arrangement of olfactory glomeruli itself, but that male preference may instead be mediated by an antennal factor, which causes the MGC glomeruli to be differentially sized. We postulate that this factor affects readout of blend information from the MGC. The results are an illustration of how pheromone preference may be 'spelled out' in the ALs, and how evolution may modulate this.
The European Corn Borer, Ostrinia nubilalis (Hubner), is a keystone model for studies on the evolution of sex pheromone diversity and its role in establishing reproductive isolation. This species consists of two sympatric races, each utilizing opposite isomers of the same compound as their major pheromone component. Female production and male response are congruent in each race, and males from each strain exhibit phenotypic differences in peripheral physiology. Both strains possess co-localized pheromone-sensitive olfactory sensory neurons characterized by a larger amplitude action potential (spike) responding to the major pheromone component, and a smaller spike amplitude cell responding to the minor component, i.e. the opposite isomer. These differences in amplitude correspond to differences in dendritic diameter between the two neurons. Previous studies showed that behavioral response to the pheromone blend was sex-linked, but spike amplitude response to pheromone components matched autosomal, not sex-linked inheritance.
As part of a larger study to finely map the loci responsible for pheromone communication in this species, we have reanalyzed peripheral physiology among parental, and first and second generation hybrids between the two pheromone strains using tungsten electrode electrophysiology. Our results reveal that differences in spike amplitude ratio between male pheromone-sensitive sensory neurons in O. nubilalis races are controlled, at least partially, by sex-linked genes that exhibit E-strain dominance.
We propose that peripheral olfactory response in O. nubilalis may be affected both by autosomal and sex-linked genes exhibiting a cross-locus dominance effect, and suggest that the genetic basis for pheromone reception and response in the species is more closely linked than previously thought.
Several lineages within the Crustacea conquered land independently during evolution, thereby requiring physiological adaptations for a semi-terrestrial or even a fully terrestrial lifestyle. Birgus latro Linnaeus, 1767, the giant robber crab or coconut crab (Anomura, Coenobitidae), is the largest land-living arthropod and inhabits Indo-Pacific islands such as Christmas Island. B. latro has served as a model in numerous studies of physiological aspects related to the conquest of land by crustaceans. From an olfactory point of view, a transition from sea to land means that molecules need to be detected in gas phase instead of in water solution. Previous studies have provided physiological evidence that terrestrial hermit crabs (Coenobitidae) such as B. latro have a sensitive and well differentiated sense of smell. Here we analyze the brain, in particular the olfactory processing areas of B. latro, by morphological analysis followed by 3 D reconstruction and immunocytochemical studies of synaptic proteins and a neuropeptide.
The primary and secondary olfactory centers dominate the brain of B. latro and together account for ca. 40% of the neuropil volume in its brain. The paired olfactory neuropils are tripartite and composed of more than 1,000 columnar olfactory glomeruli, which are radially arranged around the periphery of the olfactory neuropils. The glomeruli are innervated ca. 90,000 local interneurons and ca. 160,000 projection neurons per side. The secondary olfactory centers, the paired hemiellipsoid neuropils, are targeted by the axons of these olfactory projection neurons. The projection neuron axonal branches make contact to ca. 250.000 interneurons (per side) associated with the hemiellipsoid neuropils. The hemiellipsoid body neuropil is organized into parallel neuropil lamellae, a design that is quite unusual for decapod crustaceans. The architecture of the optic neuropils and areas associated with antenna two suggest that B. latro has visual and mechanosensory skills that are comparable to those of marine Crustacea.
In parallel to previous behavioral findings that B. latro has aerial olfaction, our results indicate that their central olfactory pathway is indeed most prominent. Similar findings from the closely related terrestrial hermit crab Coenobita clypeatus suggest that in Coenobitidae, olfaction is a major sensory modality processed by the brain, and that for these animals, exploring the olfactory landscape is vital for survival in their terrestrial habitat. Future studies on terrestrial members of other crustacean taxa such as Isopoda, Amphipoda, Astacida, and Brachyura will shed light on how frequently the establishment of an aerial sense of olfaction evolved in Crustacea during the transition from sea to land. Amounting to ca. 1,000,000, the numbers of interneurons that analyse the olfactory input in B. latro brains surpasses that in other terrestrial arthropods, as e.g. the honeybee Apis mellifera or the moth Manduca sexta, by two orders of magnitude suggesting that B. latro in fact is a land-living arthropod that has devoted a substantial amount of nervous tissue to the sense of smell.