Cytochrome P450s and cytochrome P450 reductase in the olfactory organ of the cotton leafworm Spodoptera littoralis


Correspondence: Martine Maïbèche-Coisne, UMR-A 1272, Université Paris 6, 7 Quai St-Bernard, BC 1211, F-75005 Paris, France. Tel.: + 33 144276592; fax: + 33 144276509; e-mail:


Cytochrome P450 enzymes (P450s) are involved in many physiological functions in insects, such as the metabolism of signal molecules, adaptation to host plants and insecticide resistance. Several P450s have been reported in the olfactory organs of insects, the antennae, and have been proposed to play a role in odorant processing and/or xenobiotic metabolism. Despite recent transcriptomic analyses in several species, the diversity of antennal P450s in insects has not yet been investigated. Here, we report the identification of 37 putative P450s expressed in the antennae of the pest moth Spodoptera littoralis, as well as the characterization of a redox partner, cytochrome P450 reductase (CPR). Phylogenetic analysis revealed that S. littoralis P450s belong to four clades defined by their conservation with vertebrate P450s and their cellular localization. Interestingly, the CYP3 and CYP4 clans, which have been described to be mainly involved in the metabolism of plant compounds and xenobiotics, were largely predominant. More surprisingly, two P450s related to ecdysteroid metabolism were also identified. Expression patterns in adult and larval tissues were studied. Eight P450s appeared to be specific to the chemosensory organs, ie the antennae and proboscis, suggesting a specific role in odorant and tastant processing. Moreover, exposure of males to a plant odorant down-regulated the transcript level of CPR, revealing for the first time the regulation of this gene by odorants within insect antennae. This work suggests that the antennae of insects are a key site for P450-mediated metabolism of a large range of exogenous and endogenous molecules.