Search tips
Search criteria

Results 1-19 (19)

Clipboard (0)

Select a Filter Below

more »
Year of Publication
Document Types
1.  Multimodal Integration of Carbon Dioxide and Other Sensory Cues Drives Mosquito Attraction to Humans 
Cell  2014;156(5):1060-1071.
Multiple sensory cues emanating from humans are thought to guide blood-feeding female mosquitoes to a host. To determine the relative contribution of carbon dioxide (CO2) detection to mosquito host-seeking behavior, we mutated the AaegGr3 gene, a subunit of the heteromeric CO2 receptor in Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. Gr3 mutants lack electrophysiological and behavioral responses to CO2. These mutants also fail to show CO2-evoked responses to heat and lactic acid, a human-derived attractant, suggesting that CO2 can gate responses to other sensory stimuli. While attraction of Gr3 mutants to live humans in a large semi-field environment was only slightly impaired, responses to an animal host were greatly reduced in a spatial-scale dependent manner. Synergistic integration of heat and odor cues likely drive host-seeking behavior in the absence of CO2 detection. We reveal a networked series of interactions by which multimodal integration of CO2, human odor, and heat orchestrates mosquito attraction to humans.
PMCID: PMC4007582  PMID: 24581501
2.  Opposing Dopaminergic and GABAergic Neurons Control the Duration and Persistence of Copulation in Drosophila 
Cell  2013;155(4):881-893.
Behavioral persistence is a major factor in determiningwhen and under which circumstances animals will terminate their current activity and transition into more profitable, appropriate, or urgent behavior. We show that, for the first 5 min of copulation in Drosophila, stressful stimuli do not interrupt mating, whereas 10 min later, even minor perturbations are sufficient to terminate copulation. This decline in persistence occurs as the probability of successful mating increases and is promoted by approximately eight sexually dimorphic, GABAergic interneurons of the male abdominal ganglion. When these interneurons were silenced, persistence increased and males copulated far longer than required for successful mating. When these interneurons were stimulated, persistence decreased and copulations were shortened. In contrast, dopaminergic neurons of the ventral nerve cord promote copulation persistence and extend copulation duration. Thus, copulation duration in Drosophila is a product of gradually declining persistence controlled by opposing neuronal populations using conserved neurotransmission systems.
PMCID: PMC4048588  PMID: 24209625
3.  Single Sensillum Recordings in the Insects Drosophila melanogaster and Anopheles gambiae 
The sense of smell is essential for insects to find foods, mates, predators, and oviposition sites3. Insect olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs) are enclosed in sensory hairs called sensilla, which cover the surface of olfactory organs. The surface of each sensillum is covered with tiny pores, through which odorants pass and dissolve in a fluid called sensillum lymph, which bathes the sensory dendrites of the OSNs housed in a given sensillum. The OSN dendrites express odorant receptor (OR) proteins, which in insects function as odor-gated ion channels4, 5. The interaction of odorants with ORs either increases or decreases the basal firing rate of the OSN. This neuronal activity in the form of action potentials embodies the first representation of the quality, intensity, and temporal characteristics of the odorant6, 7.
Given the easy access to these sensory hairs, it is possible to perform extracellular recordings from single OSNs by introducing a recording electrode into the sensillum lymph, while the reference electrode is placed in the lymph of the eye or body of the insect. In Drosophila, sensilla house between one and four OSNs, but each OSN typically displays a characteristic spike amplitude. Spike sorting techniques make it possible to assign spiking responses to individual OSNs. This single sensillum recording (SSR) technique monitors the difference in potential between the sensillum lymph and the reference electrode as electrical spikes that are generated by the receptor activity on OSNs1, 2, 8. Changes in the number of spikes in response to the odorant represent the cellular basis of odor coding in insects. Here, we describe the preparation method currently used in our lab to perform SSR on Drosophila melanogaster and Anopheles gambiae, and show representative traces induced by the odorants in a sensillum-specific manner.
PMCID: PMC2830253  PMID: 20164822
4.  orco mutant mosquitoes lose strong preference for humans and are not repelled by volatile DEET 
Nature  2013;498(7455):10.1038/nature12206.
Female mosquitoes of some species are generalists and will blood-feed on a variety of vertebrate hosts, whereas others display marked host preference. Anopheles gambiae and Aedes aegypti have evolved a strong preference for humans, making them dangerously efficient vectors of malaria and Dengue haemorrhagic fever1. Specific host odours likely drive this strong preference since other attractive cues, including body heat and exhaled carbon dioxide (CO2) are common to all warm-blooded hosts2, 3. Insects sense odours via several chemosensory receptor families, including the odorant receptors (ORs). ORs are membrane proteins that form heteromeric odour-gated ion channels4, 5 comprised of a variable ligand-selective subunit and an obligate co-receptor called Orco6. Here we use zinc-finger nucleases to generate targeted mutations in the Ae. aegypti orco gene to examine the contribution of Orco and the OR pathway to mosquito host selection and sensitivity to the insect repellent DEET. orco mutant olfactory sensory neurons have greatly reduced spontaneous activity and lack odour-evoked responses. Behaviourally, orco mutant mosquitoes have severely reduced attraction to honey, an odour cue related to floral nectar, and do not respond to human scent in the absence of CO2. However, in the presence of CO2, female orco mutant mosquitoes retain strong attraction to both human and animal hosts, but no longer strongly prefer humans. orco mutant females are attracted to human hosts even in the presence of DEET, but are repelled upon contact, indicating that olfactory- and contact-mediated effects of DEET are mechanistically distinct. We conclude that the OR pathway is crucial for an anthropophilic vector mosquito to discriminate human from non-human hosts and to be effectively repelled by volatile DEET.
PMCID: PMC3696029  PMID: 23719379
5.  Sensory Systems 
Current opinion in neurobiology  2009;19(4):343-344.
PMCID: PMC2751638  PMID: 19717297
6.  Functional and Genetic Characterization of Neuropeptide Y-Like Receptors in Aedes aegypti 
Female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are the principal vector for dengue fever, causing 50–100 million infections per year, transmitted between human and mosquito by blood feeding. Ae. aegypti host-seeking behavior is known to be inhibited for three days following a blood meal by a hemolymph-borne humoral factor. Head Peptide-I is a candidate peptide mediating this suppression, but the mechanism by which this peptide alters mosquito behavior and the receptor through which it signals are unknown.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Head Peptide-I shows sequence similarity to short Neuropeptide-F peptides (sNPFs) that have been implicated in feeding behaviors and are known to signal through Neuropeptide Y (NPY)-Like Receptors (NPYLRs). We identified eight NPYLRs in the Ae. aegypti genome and screened each in a cell-based calcium imaging assay for sensitivity against a panel of peptides. Four of the Ae. aegypti NPYLRs responded to one or more peptide ligands, but only NYPLR1 responded to Head Peptide-I as well as sNPFs. Two NPYLR1 homologues identified in the genome of the Lyme disease vector, Ixodes scapularis, were also sensitive to Head Peptide-I. Injection of synthetic Head Peptide-I and sNPF-3 inhibited host-seeking behavior in non-blood-fed female mosquitoes, whereas control injections of buffer or inactive Head Peptide-I [Cys10] had no effect. To ask if NPYLR1 is necessary for blood-feeding-induced host-seeking inhibition, we used zinc-finger nucleases to generate five independent npylr1 null mutant strains and tested them for behavioral abnormalities. npylr1 mutants displayed normal behavior in locomotion, egg laying, sugar feeding, blood feeding, host seeking, and inhibition of host seeking after a blood meal.
In this work we deorphanized four Ae. aegypti NPYLRs and identified NPYLR1 as a candidate sNPF receptor that is also sensitive to Head Peptide-I. Yet npylr1 alone is not required for host-seeking inhibition and we conclude that other receptors, additional peptides, or both, regulate this important behavior.
Author Summary
Female mosquitoes are responsible for spreading many deadly infectious diseases including malaria, dengue fever, and yellow fever. These mosquitoes require a blood meal to produce eggs and preferentially feed on humans, thereby spreading disease as they feed. Females of the dengue vector mosquito Aedes aegypti undergo a natural change in behavior after a blood meal in which they lose attraction to humans for over three days. We are interested in understanding this natural behavioral inhibition because it may provide an opportunity to control mosquito blood-feeding behavior. Previous work showed that a small protein called Head Peptide-I could mimic this behavioral inhibition when injected into non-blood-fed females, which normally show very high attraction to humans. In this work, we set out to find the Head Peptide-I receptor and ask if it causes this behavioral inhibition. By testing eight different candidate receptors, we found one called NPYLR1 that responds to Head-Peptide I but is much more sensitive to another peptide called sNPF-3. We made mutant mosquitoes that lack the npylr1 gene and found that the mutants showed normal sugar- and blood-feeding behavior. We conclude that there must be additional receptors and/or peptides that together cause this long-lasting inhibition of female mosquito attraction to humans.
PMCID: PMC3794971  PMID: 24130914
7.  Small molecule drug screening in Drosophila identifies the 5HT2A receptor as a feeding modulation target 
Scientific Reports  2013;3:srep02120.
Dysregulation of eating behavior can lead to obesity, which affects 10% of the adult population worldwide and accounts for nearly 3 million deaths every year. Despite this burden on society, we currently lack effective pharmacological treatment options to regulate appetite. We used Drosophila melanogaster larvae to develop a high-throughput whole organism screen for drugs that modulate food intake. In a screen of 3630 small molecules, we identified the serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine or 5-HT) receptor antagonist metitepine as a potent anorectic drug. Using cell-based assays we show that metitepine is an antagonist of all five Drosophila 5-HT receptors. We screened fly mutants for each of these receptors and found that serotonin receptor 5-HT2A is the sole molecular target for feeding inhibition by metitepine. These results highlight the conservation of molecular mechanisms controlling appetite and provide a method for unbiased whole-organism drug screens to identify novel drugs and molecular pathways modulating food intake.
PMCID: PMC3698492  PMID: 23817146
8.  Post-fasting olfactory, transcriptional, and feeding responses in Drosophila 
Physiology & behavior  2011;105(2):544-553.
The sensation of hunger after a period of fasting and of satiety after eating is crucial to behavioral regulation of food intake, but the biological mechanisms regulating these sensations are incompletely understood. We studied the behavioral and physiological adaptation to fasting in the vinegar fly (Drosophila melanogaster). Here we show that both male and female flies increased their rate of food intake transiently in the post-fasted state. Although the basal feeding rate was higher in females than males, the magnitude of the post-fasting feeding response was the same in both sexes. Flies returned to a stable baseline feeding rate within 12 hr after return to food for males and 24 hr for females. This modulation in feeding was accompanied by a significant increase in the size of the crop organ of the digestive system, suggesting that fasted flies responded both by increasing their food intake and storing reserve food in their crop. Flies demonstrated increased behavioral attraction to an attractive odor when food-deprived. Expression profiling of head, body, and chemosensory tissues by microarray analysis revealed 415 genes regulated by fasting after 24 hr and 723 genes after 48 hr, with downregulated genes outnumbering upregulated genes in each tissue and fasting time point. These transcriptional changes showed rich temporal dynamics and affected genes across multiple functional gene ontology categories. These observations suggest that a coordinated transcriptional response to internal physiological state may regulate both ingestive behaviors and chemosensory perception of food.
PMCID: PMC3225490  PMID: 21945372
Drosophila; feeding behavior; microarray; fasting
9.  An olfactory demography of a diverse metropolitan population 
BMC Neuroscience  2012;13:122.
Human perception of the odour environment is highly variable. People vary both in their general olfactory acuity as well as in if and how they perceive specific odours. In recent years, it has been shown that genetic differences contribute to variability in both general olfactory acuity and the perception of specific odours. Odour perception also depends on other factors such as age and gender. Here we investigate the influence of these factors on both general olfactory acuity and on the perception of 66 structurally and perceptually different odours in a diverse subject population.
We carried out a large human olfactory psychophysics study of 391 adult subjects in metropolitan New York City, an ethnically and culturally diverse North American metropolis. 210 of the subjects were women and the median age was 34.6 years (range 19–75). We recorded ~2,300 data points per subject to obtain a comprehensive perceptual phenotype, comprising multiple perceptual measures of 66 diverse odours. We show that general olfactory acuity correlates with gender, age, race, smoking habits, and body type. Young, female, non-smoking subjects had the highest average olfactory acuity. Deviations from normal body type in either direction were associated with decreased olfactory acuity. Beyond these factors we also show that, surprisingly, there are many odour-specific influences of race, age, and gender on olfactory perception. We show over 100 instances in which the intensity or pleasantness perception of an odour is significantly different between two demographic groups.
These data provide a comprehensive snapshot of the olfactory sense of a diverse population. Olfactory acuity in the population is most strongly influenced by age, followed by gender. We also show a large number of diverse correlations between demographic factors and the perception of individual odours that may reflect genetic differences as well as different prior experiences with these odours between demographic groups.
PMCID: PMC3493268  PMID: 23046643
Olfaction; Psychophysics; Demographics
10.  Topographic Mapping—The Olfactory System 
Sensory systems must map accurate representations of the external world in the brain. Although the physical senses of touch and vision build topographic representations of the spatial coordinates of the body and the field of view, the chemical sense of olfaction maps discontinuous features of chemical space, comprising an extremely large number of possible odor stimuli. In both mammals and insects, olfactory circuits are wired according to the convergence of axons from sensory neurons expressing the same odorant receptor. Synapses are organized into distinctive spherical neuropils—the olfactory glomeruli—that connect sensory input with output neurons and local modulatory interneurons. Although there is a strong conservation of form in the olfactory maps of mammals and insects, they arise using divergent mechanisms. Olfactory glomeruli provide a unique solution to the problem of mapping discontinuous chemical space onto the brain.
The axons of neurons expressing the same odorant receptor converge at distinct glomeruli in the brain. These connect sensory input with output and modulator neurons, allowing the brain to map chemical space.
PMCID: PMC2908763  PMID: 20554703
11.  A natural polymorphism alters odour and DEET sensitivity in an insect odorant receptor 
Nature  2011;478(7370):511-514.
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.
PMCID: PMC3203342  PMID: 21937991
12.  Amino Acid Residues Contributing to Function of the Heteromeric Insect Olfactory Receptor Complex 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e32372.
Olfactory receptors (Ors) convert chemical signals—the binding of odors and pheromones—to electrical signals through the depolarization of olfactory sensory neurons. Vertebrates Ors are G-protein-coupled receptors, stimulated by odors to produce intracellular second messengers that gate ion channels. Insect Ors are a heteromultimeric complex of unknown stoichiometry of two seven transmembrane domain proteins with no sequence similarity to and the opposite membrane topology of G-protein-coupled receptors. The functional insect Or comprises an odor- or pheromone-specific Or subunit and the Orco co-receptor, which is highly conserved in all insect species. The insect Or-Orco complex has been proposed to function as a novel type of ligand-gated nonselective cation channel possibly modulated by G-proteins. However, the Or-Orco proteins lack homology to any known family of ion channel and lack known functional domains. Therefore, the mechanisms by which odors activate the Or-Orco complex and how ions permeate this complex remain unknown. To begin to address the relationship between Or-Orco structure and function, we performed site-directed mutagenesis of all 83 conserved Glu, Asp, or Tyr residues in the silkmoth BmOr-1-Orco pheromone receptor complex and measured functional properties of mutant channels expressed in Xenopus oocytes. 13 of 83 mutations in BmOr-1 and BmOrco altered the reversal potential and rectification index of the BmOr-1-Orco complex. Three of the 13 amino acids (D299 and E356 in BmOr-1 and Y464 in BmOrco) altered both current-voltage relationships and K+ selectivity. We introduced the homologous Orco Y464 residue into Drosophila Orco in vivo, and observed variable effects on spontaneous and evoked action potentials in olfactory neurons that depended on the particular Or-Orco complex examined. Our results provide evidence that a subset of conserved Glu, Asp and Tyr residues in both subunits are essential for channel activity of the heteromeric insect Or-Orco complex.
PMCID: PMC3293798  PMID: 22403649
13.  Controversy and Consensus: Non-Canonical Signaling Mechanisms in the Insect Olfactory System 
Current opinion in neurobiology  2009;19(3):284-292.
There is broad consensus that olfactory signalling in vertebrates and the nematode C. elegans uses canonical G protein-coupled receptor transduction pathways. In contrast, mechanisms of insect olfactory signal transduction remain deeply controversial. Genetic disruption of G proteins and chemosensory ion channels in mice and worms leads to profound impairment in olfaction, while similar mutations in the fly show more subtle phenotypes. The literature contains contradictory claims that insect olfaction uses cAMP, cGMP, or IP3 as second messengers; that insect odorant receptors couple to Gαs or Gαq pathways; and that insect odorant receptors are GPCRs or odor-gated ion channels. Here we consider all the evidence and offer a consensus model for a non-canonical mechanism of olfactory signal transduction in insects.
PMCID: PMC2752668  PMID: 19660933
14.  Comparative Genomics of the Eukaryotes 
Science (New York, N.Y.)  2000;287(5461):2204-2215.
A comparative analysis of the genomes of Drosophila melanogaster, Caenorhabditis elegans, and Saccharomyces cerevisiae—and the proteins they are predicted to encode—was undertaken in the context of cellular, developmental, and evolutionary processes. The nonredundant protein sets of flies and worms are similar in size and are only twice that of yeast, but different gene families are expanded in each genome, and the multidomain proteins and signaling pathways of the fly and worm are far more complex than those of yeast. The fly has orthologs to 177 of the 289 human disease genes examined and provides the foundation for rapid analysis of some of the basic processes involved in human disease.
PMCID: PMC2754258  PMID: 10731134
15.  The survival advantage of olfaction in a competitive environment 
Current biology : CB  2008;18(15):1153-1155.
Olfaction is generally assumed to be critical for survival because this sense allows animals to detect food and pheromonal cues. While the ability to sense sex pheromones [1–3] is likely to be important for insects, the contribution of general odor detection to survival is unknown. We investigated the extent to which the olfactory system confers a survival advantage on Drosophila larvae foraging for food under conditions of limited resources and competition from other larvae.
PMCID: PMC2575080  PMID: 18674910
16.  Variant ionotropic glutamate receptors as chemosensory receptors in Drosophila 
Cell  2009;136(1):149-162.
Ionotropic glutamate receptors (iGluRs) mediate neuronal communication at synapses throughout vertebrate and invertebrate nervous systems. We have characterized a novel family of iGluR-related genes in Drosophila, which we name Ionotropic Receptors (IRs). These receptors do not belong to the well-described Kainate, AMPA, or NMDA classes of iGluRs, and have divergent ligand-binding domains that lack their characteristic glutamate-interacting residues. IRs are expressed in a combinatorial fashion in sensory neurons that respond to many distinct odors but do not express either insect odorant receptors (ORs) or gustatory receptors (GRs). IR proteins accumulate in sensory dendrites and not at synapses. Mis-expression of IRs induces novel odor responses in ectopic neurons. Together, these results lead us to propose that the IRs comprise a novel family of chemosensory receptors. Conservation of IR/iGluR-related proteins in bacteria, plants, and animals suggests that this receptor family represents an evolutionarily ancient mechanism for sensing both internal and external chemical cues.
PMCID: PMC2709536  PMID: 19135896
17.  Better Smelling Through Genetics: Mammalian Odor Perception 
Current opinion in neurobiology  2008;18(4):364-369.
The increasing availability of genomic and genetic tools to study olfaction—the sense of smell—has brought important new insights into how this chemosensory modality functions in different species. Newly sequenced mammalian genomes—from platypus to dog—have made it possible to infer how smell has evolved to suit the needs of a given species and how variation within a species may affect individual olfactory perception. This review will focus on recent advances in the genetics and genomics of mammalian smell, with a primary focus on rodents and humans.
PMCID: PMC2590501  PMID: 18938244
18.  A circuit supporting concentration-invariant odor perception in Drosophila 
Journal of Biology  2009;8(1):9.
Most odors are perceived to have the same quality over a large concentration range, but the neural mechanisms that permit concentration-invariant olfactory perception are unknown. In larvae of the vinegar fly Drosophila melanogaster, odors are sensed by an array of 25 odorant receptors expressed in 21 olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs). We investigated how subsets of larval OSNs with overlapping but distinct response properties cooperate to mediate perception of a given odorant across a range of concentrations.
Using calcium imaging, we found that ethyl butyrate, an ester perceived by humans as fruity, activated three OSNs with response thresholds that varied across three orders of magnitude. Whereas wild-type larvae were strongly attracted by this odor across a 500-fold range of concentration, individuals with only a single functional OSN showed attraction across a narrower concentration range corresponding to the sensitivity of each ethyl butyrate-tuned OSN. To clarify how the information carried by different OSNs is integrated by the olfactory system, we characterized the response properties of local inhibitory interneurons and projection neurons in the antennal lobe. Local interneurons only responded to high ethyl butyrate concentrations upon summed activation of at least two OSNs. Projection neurons showed a reduced response to odors when summed input from two OSNs impinged on the circuit compared to when there was only a single functional OSN.
Our results show that increasing odor concentrations induce progressive activation of concentration-tuned olfactory sensory neurons and concomitant recruitment of inhibitory local interneurons. We propose that the interplay of combinatorial OSN input and local interneuron activation allows animals to remain sensitive to odors across a large range of stimulus intensities.
PMCID: PMC2656214  PMID: 19171076
19.  Atypical Membrane Topology and Heteromeric Function of Drosophila Odorant Receptors In Vivo 
PLoS Biology  2006;4(2):e20.
Drosophila olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs) each express two odorant receptors (ORs): a divergent member of the OR family and the highly conserved, broadly expressed receptor OR83b. OR83b is essential for olfaction in vivo and enhances OR function in vitro, but the molecular mechanism by which it acts is unknown. Here we demonstrate that OR83b heterodimerizes with conventional ORs early in the endomembrane system in OSNs, couples these complexes to the conserved ciliary trafficking pathway, and is essential to maintain the OR/OR83b complex within the sensory cilia, where odor signal transduction occurs. The OR/OR83b complex is necessary and sufficient to promote functional reconstitution of odor-evoked signaling in sensory neurons that normally respond only to carbon dioxide. Unexpectedly, unlike all known vertebrate and nematode chemosensory receptors, we find that Drosophila ORs and OR83b adopt a novel membrane topology with their N-termini and the most conserved loops in the cytoplasm. These loops mediate direct association of ORs with OR83b. Our results reveal that OR83b is a universal and integral part of the functional OR in Drosophila. This atypical heteromeric and topological design appears to be an insect-specific solution for odor recognition, making the OR/OR83b complex an attractive target for the development of highly selective insect repellents to disrupt olfactory-mediated host-seeking behaviors of insect disease vectors.
This study reveals a novel membrane topology for olfactory receptors in Drosophila and details the molecular mechanisms of receptor localization at the sensory cilia.
PMCID: PMC1334387  PMID: 16402857

Results 1-19 (19)