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Keywords:

  • electroantennography;
  • insects;
  • odorant receptor;
  • olfaction;
  • pheromone;
  • single sensillum recordings

Abstract

Moth sex pheromone communication is recognised as a long-standing model for insect olfaction studies, and a widespread knowledge has been accumulated on this subject thanks to numerous chemical, electrophysiological and behavioural studies. A key step has been the identification of candidate sex pheromone receptors, opening new routes to understanding the specificity and sensitivity of this communication system, but only few of these receptors have as yet been functionally characterised. In this context, we aim at unravelling the molecular bases of pheromone reception in the noctuid moth Spodoptera littoralis. Taking advantage of a collection of antennal-expressed sequence tags, we previously identified three fragments of candidate pheromone receptors in this species. Here, we report full-length cloning of one of these receptors, named SlitOR6. Both sequence and expression pattern analyses were consistent with its annotation as a pheromone receptor, which we further confirmed by functional characterization. Using Drosophila antennae as a heterologous expression system, we identified a single component of the pheromone blend of S. littoralis, (Z,E)-9,12-tetradecadienyl acetate, as the ligand of SlitOR6. Two strategies were employed: (i) expressing SlitOR6 in the majority of Drosophila olfactory neurons, in addition to endogenous receptors, and monitoring the responses to pheromone stimuli by electroantennography; (ii) replacing the Drosophila pheromone receptor OR67d with SlitOR6 and monitoring the response by single sensillum recordings. Results were fully congruent and responses to (Z,E)-9,12-tetradecadienyl acetate were highly specific in both heterologous systems. This approach appears to be efficient and reliable for studying moth pheromone receptors in an in vivo context.