Farnesol-Detecting Olfactory Neurons in Drosophila
ABSTRACT 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.
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ABSTRACT: Insects detect odorants primarily using odorant receptors (OR) housed in the dendritic membrane of olfactory sensory neurons (OSN). Pioneering studies indicated that insects, like mammals, detect odorants in a combinatorial fashion with a specific odor ligand activating several broadly tuned ORs, and each OR being activated by several ligands. Several recent studies, however, challenge this view by providing examples where ecologically relevant odorants are detected by high-specificity ORs activating dedicated neuronal circuits. Here we review these contrasting findings on the ligand selectivity of insect ORs and their neuronal wiring, and outline scenarios describing how adaptive and neutral evolution might shape both narrow and broad receptor tuning. The fact that not all ORs display narrow tuning might partly be due to key ligands having been missed from screens or too high stimuli concentrations being used. However, the birth-and-death model of OR evolution, involving both adaptive and neutral events, could also explain the evolution of broad tuning in certain receptors due to positive selection or relaxed constraint. If the insect olfactory system indeed contains both narrowly and broadly tuned ORs, this suggests that it is a hybrid between dedicated channels and combinatorial coding. The relative extent of the two coding modes is then likely to differ between species, depending on requirements of perceived chemical space and the size of the OR repertoire. We address this by outlining scenarios where certain insect groups may be more likely to have evolved combinatorial coding as their dominant coding strategy. Combinatorial coding may have evolved predominantly in insects that benefit from the ability to discriminate between a larger number of odorants and odor objects, such as polyphagous or social species. Alternatively, combinatorial coding may have evolved simply as a mechanism to increase perceived odor space in species with small OR repertoires.
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ABSTRACT: In Drosophila melanogaster, the male-specific pheromone cVA (11-cis-vaccenyl acetate) functions as a sex-specific social cue. However, our understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying cVA pheromone transduction and its regulation are incomplete. Using a genetic screen combined with an electrophysiological assay to monitor pheromone-evoked activity in the cVA-sensing Or67d neurons, we identified an olfactory sensitivity factor encoded by the dATP8B gene, the Drosophila homolog of mammalian ATP8B. dATP8B is expressed in all olfactory neurons that express Orco, the odorant receptor coreceptor, and the odorant responses in most Orco-expressing neurons are reduced. Or67d neurons are severely affected, with strongly impaired cVA-induced responses and lacking spontaneous spiking in the mutants. The dATP8B locus encodes a member of the P4-type ATPase family thought to flip aminophospholipids such as phosphatidylserine and phosphatidylethanolamine from one membrane leaflet to the other. dATP8B protein is concentrated in the cilia of olfactory neuron dendrites, the site of odorant transduction. Focusing on Or67d neuron function, we show that Or67d receptors are mislocalized in dATP8B mutants and that cVA responses can be restored to dATP8B mutants by misexpressing a wild-type dATP8B rescuing transgene, by expressing a vertebrate P4-type ATPase member in the pheromone-sensing neurons or by overexpressing Or67d receptor subunits. These findings reveal an unexpected role for lipid translocation in olfactory receptor expression and sensitivity to volatile odorants.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 05/2014; 111(21). DOI:10.1073/pnas.1401938111 · 9.81 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Most naturally occurring olfactory signals do not consist of monomolecular odorants but, rather, are mixtures whose composition and concentration ratios vary. While there is ample evidence for the relevance of complex odor blends in ecological interactions and for interactions of chemicals in both peripheral and central neuronal processing, a fine-scale analysis of rules governing the innate behavioral responses of Drosophila melanogaster towards odor mixtures is lacking. In this study we examine whether the innate valence of odors is conserved in binary odor mixtures. We show that binary mixtures of attractants are more attractive than individual mixture constituents. In contrast, mixing attractants with repellents elicits responses which are lower than the responses towards the corresponding attractants. This decrease in attraction is repellent-specific, independent of the identity of the attractant and more stereotyped across individuals than responses towards the repellent alone. Mixtures of repellents are either less attractive than the individual mixture constituents or these mixtures represent an intermediate. Within the limits of our data set, most mixture responses are quantitatively predictable on the basis of constituent responses. In summary, the valence of binary odor mixtures is predictable on the basis of valences of mixture constituents. Our findings will further our understanding of innate behavior towards ecologically relevant odor blends and will serve as a powerful tool for deciphering the olfactory valence code.Journal of Experimental Biology 09/2014; 217(20). DOI:10.1242/jeb.106591 · 3.00 Impact Factor