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1.  An antennal carboxylesterase from Drosophila melanogaster, esterase 6, is a candidate odorant-degrading enzyme toward food odorants 
Reception of odorant molecules within insect olfactory organs involves several sequential steps, including their transport through the sensillar lymph, interaction with the respective sensory receptors, and subsequent inactivation. Odorant-degrading enzymes (ODEs) putatively play a role in signal dynamics by rapid degradation of odorants in the vicinity of the receptors, but this hypothesis is mainly supported by in vitro results. We have recently shown that an extracellular carboxylesterase, esterase-6 (EST-6), is involved in the physiological and behavioral dynamics of the response of Drosophila melanogaster to its volatile pheromone ester, cis-vaccenyl acetate. However, as the expression pattern of the Est-6 gene in the antennae is not restricted to the pheromone responding sensilla, we tested here if EST-6 could play a broader function in the antennae. We found that recombinant EST-6 is able to efficiently hydrolyse several volatile esters that would be emitted by its natural food in vitro. Electrophysiological comparisons of mutant Est-6 null flies and a control strain (on the same genetic background) showed that the dynamics of the antennal response to these compounds is influenced by EST-6, with the antennae of the null mutants showing prolonged activity in response to them. Antennal responses to the strongest odorant, pentyl acetate, were then studied in more detail, showing that the repolarization dynamics were modified even at low doses but without modification of the detection threshold. Behavioral choice experiments with pentyl acetate also showed differences between genotypes; attraction to this compound was observed at a lower dose among the null than control flies. As EST-6 is able to degrade various bioactive odorants emitted by food and plays a role in the response to these compounds, we hypothesize a role as an ODE for this enzyme toward food volatiles.
PMCID: PMC4633494  PMID: 26594178
carboxylesterase; olfaction; odorant-degrading enzyme; Drosophila melanogaster; enzyme activity assays; electroantennogram; behavior
2.  A carboxylesterase, Esterase-6, modulates sensory physiological and behavioral response dynamics to pheromone in Drosophila 
BMC Biology  2012;10:56.
Insects respond to the spatial and temporal dynamics of a pheromone plume, which implies not only a strong response to 'odor on', but also to 'odor off'. This requires mechanisms geared toward a fast signal termination. Several mechanisms may contribute to signal termination, among which odorant-degrading enzymes. These enzymes putatively play a role in signal dynamics by a rapid inactivation of odorants in the vicinity of the sensory receptors, although direct in vivo experimental evidences are lacking. Here we verified the role of an extracellular carboxylesterase, esterase-6 (Est-6), in the sensory physiological and behavioral dynamics of Drosophila melanogaster response to its pheromone, cis-vaccenyl acetate (cVA). Est-6 was previously linked to post-mating effects in the reproductive system of females. As Est-6 is also known to hydrolyze cVA in vitro and is expressed in the main olfactory organ, the antenna, we tested here its role in olfaction as a putative odorant-degrading enzyme.
We first confirm that Est-6 is highly expressed in olfactory sensilla, including cVA-sensitive sensilla, and we show that expression is likely associated with non-neuronal cells. Our electrophysiological approaches show that the dynamics of olfactory receptor neuron (ORN) responses is strongly influenced by Est-6, as in Est-6° null mutants (lacking the Est-6 gene) cVA-sensitive ORN showed increased firing rate and prolonged activity in response to cVA. Est-6° mutant males had a lower threshold of behavioral response to cVA, as revealed by the analysis of two cVA-induced behaviors. In particular, mutant males exhibited a strong decrease of male-male courtship, in association with a delay in courtship initiation.
Our study presents evidence that Est-6 plays a role in the physiological and behavioral dynamics of sex pheromone response in Drosophila males and supports a role of Est-6 as an odorant-degrading enzyme (ODE) in male antennae. Our results also expand the role of Est-6 in Drosophila biology, from reproduction to olfaction, and highlight the role of ODEs in insect olfaction.
PMCID: PMC3414785  PMID: 22715942
carboxylesterase; esterase 6; olfaction; pheromone; signal termination
3.  Antennal carboxylesterases in a moth, structural and functional diversity 
Pheromone-degrading enzymes (PDEs) are supposed to be involved in the signal inactivation step within the olfactory sensilla of insects by quickly degrading pheromone molecules. Because esters are widespread insect pheromone components, PDEs belonging to the carboxylesterase (CCE) family have been the most studied. However, only two CCEs were both identified at the molecular level and functionally characterized as PDEs until recently. In the pest moth Spodoptera littoralis, we have identified an unsuspected diversity of antennal CCEs, with a total number of 30 genes. Two CCEs, enriched in antennae and belonging to distinct clades, were shown to present different substrate specificities toward pheromone and plant compounds. A same CCE was also shown to efficiently degrade both pheromone and plant components. Our results suggest that the structural evolution of antennal CCEs reflects their functional diversity and that a complex set of CCE-mediated reactions take place is the olfactory organs of moths.
PMCID: PMC3419116  PMID: 22896794
lepidoptera; noctuidae; olfaction; carboxylesterase; odorant-degrading enzymes; pheromone
4.  Degradation of Pheromone and Plant Volatile Components by a Same Odorant-Degrading Enzyme in the Cotton Leafworm, Spodoptera littoralis 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(12):e29147.
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.
PMCID: PMC3246455  PMID: 22216190
5.  Characterization of an Antennal Carboxylesterase from the Pest Moth Spodoptera littoralis Degrading a Host Plant Odorant 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(11):e15026.
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.
PMCID: PMC2993938  PMID: 21124773
6.  Anopheles Gambiae PRS1 Modulates Plasmodium Development at Both Midgut and Salivary Gland Steps 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(7):e11538.
Invasion of the mosquito salivary glands by Plasmodium is a critical step for malaria transmission. From a SAGE analysis, we previously identified several genes whose expression in salivary glands was regulated coincident with sporozoite invasion of salivary glands. To get insights into the consequences of these salivary gland responses, here we have studied one of the genes, PRS1 (Plasmodium responsive salivary 1), whose expression was upregulated in infected glands, using immunolocalization and functional inactivation approaches.
Methodology/Principal Findings
PRS1 belongs to a novel insect superfamily of genes encoding proteins with DM9 repeat motifs of uncharacterized function. We show that PRS1 is induced in response to Plasmodium, not only in the salivary glands but also in the midgut, the other epithelial barrier that Plasmodium has to cross to develop in the mosquito. Furthermore, this induction is observed using either the rodent parasite Plasmodium berghei or the human pathogen Plasmodium falciparum. In the midgut, PRS1 overexpression is associated with a relocalization of the protein at the periphery of invaded cells. We also find that sporozoite invasion of salivary gland cells occurs sequentially and induces intra-cellular modifications that include an increase in PRS1 expression and a relocalization of the corresponding protein into vesicle-like structures. Importantly, PRS1 knockdown during the onset of midgut and salivary gland invasion demonstrates that PRS1 acts as an agonist for the development of both parasite species in the two epithelia, highlighting shared vector/parasite interactions in both tissues.
While providing insights into potential functions of DM9 proteins, our results reveal that PRS1 likely contributes to fundamental interactions between Plasmodium and mosquito epithelia, which do not depend on the specific Anopheles/P. falciparum coevolutionary history.
PMCID: PMC2902509  PMID: 20634948
7.  Serial Analysis of Gene Expression in Plasmodium berghei salivary gland sporozoites 
BMC Genomics  2007;8:466.
The invasion of Anopheles salivary glands by Plasmodium sporozoites is an essential step for transmission of the parasite to the vertebrate host. Salivary gland sporozoites undergo a developmental programme to express genes required for their journey from the site of the mosquito bite to the liver and subsequent invasion of, and development within, hepatocytes. A Serial Analysis of Gene Expression was performed on Anopheles gambiae salivary glands infected or not with Plasmodium berghei and we report here the analysis of the Plasmodium sporozoite transcriptome.
Annotation of 530 tag sequences homologous to Plasmodium berghei genomic sequences identified 123 genes expressed in salivary gland sporozoites and these genes were classified according to their transcript abundance. A subset of these genes was further studied by quantitative PCR to determine their expression profiles. This revealed that sporozoites modulate their RNA amounts not only between the midgut and salivary glands, but also during their storage within the latter. Among the 123 genes, the expression of 66 is described for the first time in sporozoites of rodent Plasmodium species.
These novel sporozoite expressed genes, especially those expressed at high levels in salivary gland sporozoites, are likely to play a role in Plasmodium infectivity in the mammalian host.
PMCID: PMC2263065  PMID: 18093287

Results 1-7 (7)