• Open Access

Functional dissection of Odorant binding protein genes in Drosophila melanogaster


R. R H. Anholt, Department of Biology, North Carolina State University, P.O. Box 7617, Raleigh, NC 27695-7617, USA. E-mail: anholt@ncsu.edu


Most organisms rely on olfaction for survival and reproduction. The olfactory system of Drosophila melanogaster is one of the best characterized chemosensory systems and serves as a prototype for understanding insect olfaction. Olfaction in Drosophila is mediated by multigene families of odorant receptors and odorant binding proteins (OBPs). Although molecular response profiles of odorant receptors have been well documented, the contributions of OBPs to olfactory behavior remain largely unknown. Here, we used RNAi-mediated suppression of Obp gene expression and measurements of behavioral responses to 16 ecologically relevant odorants to systematically dissect the functions of 17 OBPs. We quantified the effectiveness of RNAi-mediated suppression by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction and used a proteomic liquid chromatography and tandem mass spectrometry procedure to show target-specific suppression of OBPs expressed in the antennae. Flies in which expression of a specific OBP is suppressed often show altered behavioral responses to more than one, but not all, odorants, in a sex-dependent manner. Similarly, responses to a specific odorant are frequently affected by suppression of expression of multiple, but not all, OBPs. These results show that OBPs are essential for mediating olfactory behavioral responses and suggest that OBP-dependent odorant recognition is combinatorial.