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1.  Temporal Features of Spike Trains in the Moth Antennal Lobe Revealed by a Comparative Time-Frequency Analysis 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e84037.
The discrimination of complex sensory stimuli in a noisy environment is an immense computational task. Sensory systems often encode stimulus features in a spatiotemporal fashion through the complex firing patterns of individual neurons. To identify these temporal features, we have developed an analysis that allows the comparison of statistically significant features of spike trains localized over multiple scales of time-frequency resolution. Our approach provides an original way to utilize the discrete wavelet transform to process instantaneous rate functions derived from spike trains, and select relevant wavelet coefficients through statistical analysis. Our method uncovered localized features within olfactory projection neuron (PN) responses in the moth antennal lobe coding for the presence of an odor mixture and the concentration of single component odorants, but not for compound identities. We found that odor mixtures evoked earlier responses in biphasic response type PNs compared to single components, which led to differences in the instantaneous firing rate functions with their signal power spread across multiple frequency bands (ranging from 0 to 45.71 Hz) during a time window immediately preceding behavioral response latencies observed in insects. Odor concentrations were coded in excited response type PNs both in low frequency band differences (2.86 to 5.71 Hz) during the stimulus and in the odor trace after stimulus offset in low (0 to 2.86 Hz) and high (22.86 to 45.71 Hz) frequency bands. These high frequency differences in both types of PNs could have particular relevance for recruiting cellular activity in higher brain centers such as mushroom body Kenyon cells. In contrast, neurons in the specialized pheromone-responsive area of the moth antennal lobe exhibited few stimulus-dependent differences in temporal response features. These results provide interesting insights on early insect olfactory processing and introduce a novel comparative approach for spike train analysis applicable to a variety of neuronal data sets.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0084037
PMCID: PMC3896344  PMID: 24465391
2.  A carboxylesterase, Esterase-6, modulates sensory physiological and behavioral response dynamics to pheromone in Drosophila 
BMC Biology  2012;10:56.
Background
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.
Results
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.
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1186/1741-7007-10-56
PMCID: PMC3414785  PMID: 22715942
carboxylesterase; esterase 6; olfaction; pheromone; signal termination
3.  Identification of mosquito repellent odours from Ocimum forskolei 
Parasites & Vectors  2011;4:183.
Background
Native mosquito repellent plants have a good potential for integrated mosquito control in local settings. Ocimum forskolei, Lamiaceae, is used in Eritrea as a spatial mosquito repellent inside houses, either through crushing fresh plants or burning dry plants. We verified whether active repellent compounds could be identified using gas-chromatography coupled electroantennogram recordings (GC-EAD) with headspace extracts of crushed plants.
Results
EAD active compounds included (R)-(-)-linalool, (S)-(+)-1-octen-3-ol, trans-caryophyllene, naphthalene, methyl salicylate, (R)-(-)-α-copaene, methyl cinnamate and (E)-ocimene. Of these compounds (R)-(-)-linalool, methyl cinnamate and methyl salicylate reduced landing of female Aedes aegypti on human skin-odor baited tubes. The latter two are novel mosquito repellent compounds.
Conclusions
The identification of mosquito repellent compounds contributes to deciphering the mechanisms underlying repulsion, supporting the rational design of novel repellents. The three mosquito repellent compounds identified in this study are structurally dissimilar, which may indicate involvement of different sensory neurons in repulsion. Repulsion may well be enhanced through combining different repellent plants (or their synthetic mimics), and can be a locally sustainable part in mosquito control efforts.
doi:10.1186/1756-3305-4-183
PMCID: PMC3189156  PMID: 21936953
Ocimum forskolei; Lamiaceae; GC-EAD; Aedes aegypti; mosquito; repellent; linalool; methyl cinnamate; methyl salicylate
4.  Inheritance of central neuroanatomy and physiology related to pheromone preference in the male European corn borer 
Background
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.
Results
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.
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1186/1471-2148-10-286
PMCID: PMC2949874  PMID: 20846426
5.  Ostrinia revisited: Evidence for sex linkage in European Corn Borer Ostrinia nubilalis (Hubner) pheromone reception 
Background
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.
Results
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.
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1186/1471-2148-10-285
PMCID: PMC2955028  PMID: 20846425
6.  Evolution of the olfactory code in the Drosophila melanogaster subgroup. 
The Drosophila melanogaster subgroup has been the focus of numerous studies about evolution. We address the question of how the olfactory code has evolved among the nine sister species. By using in vivo electrophysiological measurements, so called single-cell recordings, we have established the ligand affinity of a defined subset of olfactory receptor neurons (ORNs) across all nine species. We show that the olfactory code as relayed by the investigated subset of ORNs is conserved to a striking degree. Distinct shifts in the code have occurred only within the simulans clade. However, these shifts are restricted to an altered tuning profile of the same single ORN type in all three of the simulans siblings and a more drastic change unique to D. sechellia, involving a complete loss of one sensillum type in favour of another. The alterations observed in D. sechellia may represent a novel host-specific adaptation to its sole host, morinda fruit (Morinda citrifolia). The overall high degree of similarity of the code within the subgroup is intriguing when considering the great variety in distributions as well as in habitat and host choice of the siblings, factors that could greatly affect the olfactory system.
doi:10.1098/rspb.2003.2512
PMCID: PMC1691514  PMID: 14667348

Results 1-6 (6)