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Differential expression of odorant receptor genes involved in the sexual isolation of two Heliothis moths


Fred Gould, Department of Entomology, Box 7634, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695-7634, USA. Tel. +1 919 515 1647; fax: +1 919 515 2824; e-mail:


Moth sexual communication systems are highly diverse, but the mechanisms underlying their evolutionary diversification remain unclear. Recently, genes coding for odorant receptors (ORs) OR6, OR14, OR15 and OR16 have been genetically associated with species-specific male response to female pheromone blends in Heliothis virescens (Hv) and Heliothis subflexa (Hs). Quantitative real-time PCR analysis indicates that expression of HvOR6, HsOR6, HvOR14, HsOR14, HvOR15 and HsOR15 is male biased, which supports the hypothesis that they have a role in mediating female sex pheromone detection. The genes HvOR14, HvOR15 and HvOR16 are expressed at higher levels than their corresponding orthologues HsOR14, HsOR15 and HsOR16 in male antennae, while HvOR6 and HsOR6 transcripts are equally abundant in male antennae. The lack of higher expression of any of the receptor genes in H. subflexa antennae suggests that interspecific sequence differences, rather than gene regulation differences, underly the species-specific male response to pheromone components.