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Keywords:

  • odorant-degrading enzyme;
  • esterases;
  • olfaction;
  • Lepidoptera

Abstract

Recent studies have suggested that pheromone-degrading enzymes belonging to the carboxylesterase family could play a role in the dynamics of the olfactory response to acetate sex pheromones in insects. Bioinformatic analyses of a male antennal expressed sequence tag library allowed the identification of 19 putative esterase genes expressed in the antennae of the moth Spodoptera littoralis. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that these genes belong to different insect esterase clades, defined by their putative cellular localization and substrate preferences. Interestingly, two of the 19 genes appeared to be antennal specific, suggesting a specific role in olfactory processing. This high esterase diversity suggested that the antennae are the location for intense esterase-based metabolism, against potentially a large range of exogenous and endogenous molecules.