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1.  Farnesol-Detecting Olfactory Neurons in Drosophila 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2014;34(11):3959-3968.
We set out to deorphanize a subset of putative Drosophila odorant receptors expressed in trichoid sensilla using a transgenic in vivo misexpression approach. We identified farnesol as a potent and specific activator for the orphan odorant receptor Or83c. Farnesol is an intermediate in juvenile hormone biosynthesis, but is also produced by ripe citrus fruit peels. Here, we show that farnesol stimulates robust activation of Or83c-expressing olfactory neurons, even at high dilutions. The CD36 homolog Snmp1 is required for normal farnesol response kinetics. The neurons expressing Or83c are found in a subset of poorly characterized intermediate sensilla. We show that these neurons mediate attraction behavior to low concentrations of farnesol and that Or83c receptor mutants are defective for this behavior. Or83c neurons innervate the DC3 glomerulus in the antennal lobe and projection neurons relaying information from this glomerulus to higher brain centers target a region of the lateral horn previously implicated in pheromone perception. Our findings identify a sensitive, narrowly tuned receptor that mediates attraction behavior to farnesol and demonstrates an effective approach to deorphanizing odorant receptors expressed in neurons located in intermediate and trichoid sensilla that may not function in the classical “empty basiconic neuron” system.
PMCID: PMC3951695  PMID: 24623773
behavior; empty neuron; intermediate sensilla; olfaction; orphan receptor; receptor mutant
2.  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
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.  A spoonful of bitter helps the sugar-response go down 
Neuron  2013;79(4):10.1016/j.neuron.2013.07.038.
Sweet and bitter taste distinguishes good food sources from potential toxins, but what happens when these tastants are mixed? In this issue, Jeong et al. show that in Drosophila, bitter compounds act through an extracellular odorant binding protein to inhibit sweet-responsive neurons and block the response to sweet taste.
PMCID: PMC3806211  PMID: 23972590
5.  Drosophila R2D2 Mediates Follicle Formation in Somatic Tissues through Interactions with Dicer-1 
Mechanisms of development  2008;125(5-6):475-485.
The miRNA pathway has been shown to regulate developmentally important genes. Dicer-1 is required to cleave endogenously encoded microRNA (miRNA) precursors into mature miRNAs that regulate endogenous gene expression. RNA interference (RNAi) is a gene silencing mechanism triggered by double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) that protects organisms from parasitic nucleic acids. In Drosophila, Dicer-2 cleaves dsRNA into 21 base-pair small interfering RNA (siRNA) that are loaded into RISC (RNA induced silencing complex) that in turn cleaves mRNAs homologous to the siRNAs. Dicer-2 co-purifies with R2D2, a low-molecular weight protein that loads siRNA onto Ago-2 in RISC. Loss of R2D2 results in defective RNAi. However, unlike mutants in other RNAi components like Dicer-2 or Ago-2, we report here that r2d21 mutants have striking developmental defects. r2d21 mutants have reduced female fertility, producing less than 1/10 the normal number of progeny. These escapers have normal morphology. We show R2D2 functions in the ovary, specifically in the somatic tissues giving rise to the stalk and other follicle cells critical for establishing the cellular architecture of the oocyte. Most interestingly, the female fertility defects are dramatically enhanced when a one copy of the dcr-1 gene is missing and Dicer-1 protein co-immunoprecipitates with R2D2 antisera. These data show that r2d21 mutants have reduced viability and defective female fertility that stems from abnormal follicle cell function, and Dicer-1 impacts this process. We conclude that R2D2 functions beyond its role in RNA interference to include ovarian development in Drosophila.
PMCID: PMC2702228  PMID: 18299191
RNAi; oogenesis; somatic development; female fertility
6.  Odorant and Pheromone Receptors in Insects 
Since the emergence of the first living cells, survival has hinged on the ability to detect and localize chemicals in the environment. Modern animal species ranging from insects to mammals express large odorant receptor repertoires to detect the structurally diverse array of volatile molecules important for survival. Despite the essential nature of chemical detection, there is surprising diversity in the signaling mechanisms that different species use for odorant detection. In vertebrates, odorant receptors are classical G-protein coupled, seven transmembrane receptors that activate downstream effector enzymes that, in turn, produce second messengers that open ion channels. However, recent work reveals that insects have adopted different strategies to detect volatile chemicals. In Drosophila, the odorant receptors, predicted to have seven transmembrane domains, have reversed membrane topology compared to classical G-protein coupled receptors. Furthermore, insect odorant receptors appear to form odorant-gated ion channels. Pheromone detection in insects is even more unusual, utilizing soluble, extracellular receptors that undergo conformational activation. These alternate olfactory signaling strategies are discussed in terms of receptor design principles.
PMCID: PMC2759369  PMID: 19826623
olfaction; pheromone; odorant; odorant receptor; odorant binding proteins
7.  Drosophila TRPA1 channel is required to avoid the naturally occurring insect repellent citronellal 
Current biology : CB  2010;20(18):1672-1678.
Plants produce naturally occurring insect repellents, such as citronellal, which is the main component of citronellal oil and is among the most widely-used-naturally-occurring insect repellents. However, the molecular pathways through which insects sense botanical repellents are unknown. Here, we showed that Drosophila used two pathways for direct avoidance of citronellal. The olfactory co-receptor, Or83b, which is required for the response to the synthetic repellent DEET, contributed to citronellal repulsion, and was essential for citronellal-evoked action potentials. Mutations affecting the Ca2+-permeable cation channel, TRPA1 resulted in a comparable defect in avoiding citronellal vapor. The TRPA1-dependent aversion to citronellal relied on a G protein/phospholipase C (PLC) signaling cascade, rather than direct detection of citronellal by TRPA1. Loss of TRPA1, Gq or PLC caused an increase in the frequency of citronellal-evoked action potentials in olfactory receptor neurons. Absence of the Ca2+-activated K+ channel, Slowpoke, resulted in a similar impairment in citronellal avoidance, and an increase in the frequency of action potentials. These results suggest that TRPA1 is required for activation of a BK channel to modulate citronellal-evoked action potentials, and for aversion to citronellal. In contrast to Drosophila TRPA1, Anopheles gambiae TRPA1 was directly and potently activated by citronellal, thereby raising the possibility that mosquito TRPA1 may be a target for developing improved repellents to reduce insect-borne diseases such as malaria.
PMCID: PMC2946437  PMID: 20797863
8.  LUMP Is a Putative Double-Stranded RNA Binding Protein Required for Male Fertility in Drosophila melanogaster 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(8):e24151.
In animals, male fertility requires the successful development of motile sperm. During Drosophila melanogaster spermatogenesis, 64 interconnected spermatids descended from a single germline stem cell are resolved into motile sperm in a process termed individualization. Here we identify a putative double-stranded RNA binding protein LUMP that is required for male fertility. lump1 mutants are male-sterile and lack motile sperm due to defects in sperm individualization. We show that one dsRNA binding domains (dsRBD) is essential for LUMP function in male fertility. These findings reveal LUMP is a novel factor required for late stages of male germline differentiation.
PMCID: PMC3166160  PMID: 21912621

Results 1-8 (8)