• ligand specificity;
  • male-specific olfactory receptor;
  • olfactory receptor;
  • Xenopus laevis oocyte


Male moths discriminate conspecific female-emitted sex pheromones. Although the chemical components of sex pheromones have been identified in more than 500 moth species, only three components in Bombyx mori and Heliothis virescens have had their receptors identified. Here we report the identification of receptors for the main sex-pheromone components in three moth species, Plutella xylostella, Mythimna separata and Diaphania indica. We cloned putative sex-pheromone receptor genes PxOR1, MsOR1 and DiOR1 from P. xylostella, M. separata and D. indica, respectively. Each of the three genes was exclusively expressed with an Or83b orthologous gene in male olfactory receptor neurons (ORNs) that are surrounded by supporting cells expressing pheromone-binding-protein (PBP) genes. By two-electrode voltage-clamp recording, we tested the ligand specificity of Xenopus oocytes co-expressing PxOR1, MsOR1 or DiOR1 with an OR83b family protein. Among the seven sex-pheromone components of the three moth species, the oocytes dose-dependently responded only to the main sex-pheromone component of the corresponding moth species. In our study, PBPs were not essential for ligand specificity of the receptors. On the phylogenetic tree of insect olfactory receptors, the six sex-pheromone receptors identified in the present and previous studies are grouped in the same subfamily but have no relation with the taxonomy of moths. It is most likely that sex-pheromone receptors have randomly evolved from ancestral sex-pheromone receptors before the speciation of moths and that their ligand specificity was modified by mutations of local amino acid sequences after speciation.