A small expressed sequence tag (EST) project generating 506 ESTs from 375 cDNAs was undertaken on the antennae of male Manduca sexta moths in an effort to discover olfactory receptor proteins. We encountered several clones that encode apparent transmembrane proteins; however, none is a clear candidate for an olfactory receptor. Instead we found a greater diversity of odourant binding proteins (OBPs) than previously known in moth antennae, raising the number known for M. sexta from three to seven. Together with evidence of seventeen members of the family from the Drosophila melanogaster genome project, our results suggest that insects may have many tens of OBPs expressed in subsets of the chemosensory sensilla on their antennae. These results support a model for insect olfaction in which OBPs selectively transport and present odourants to transmembrane olfactory receptors. We also found five members of a family of shorter proteins, named sensory appendage proteins (SAPs), that might also be involved in odourant transport. This small EST project also revealed several candidate odourant degrading enzymes including three P450 cytochromes, a glutathione S-transferase and a uridine diphosphate (UDP) glucosyltransferase. Several first insect homologues of proteins known from vertebrates, the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, yeast and bacteria were encountered, and most have now also been detected by the large D. melanogaster EST project. Only thirteen entirely novel proteins were encountered, some of which are likely to be cuticle proteins.