Acute olfactory response of Culex mosquitoes to a human- and bird-derived attractant

Zainulabeuddin Syed, Walter S. Leal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

204 Scopus citations


West Nile virus, which is transmitted by Culex mosquitoes while feeding on birds and humans, has emerged as the dominant vector borne disease in North America. We have identified natural compounds from humans and birds, which are detected with extreme sensitivity by olfactory receptor neurons (ORNs) on the antennae of Culex pipiens quinquefasciatus (Cx. quinquefasciatus). One of these semiochemicals, nonanal, dominates the odorant spectrum of pigeons, chickens, and humans from various ethnic backgrounds. We determined the specificity and sensitivity of all ORN types housed in different sensilla types on Cx. quinquefasciatus antennae. Here, we present a comprehensive map of all antennal ORNs coding natural ligands and their dose-response functions. Nonanal is detected by a large array of sensilla and is by far the most potent stimulus; thus, supporting the assumption that Cx. quinquefasciatus can smell humans and birds. Nonanal and CO2 synergize, thus, leading to significantly higher catches of Culex mosquitoes in traps baited with binary than in those with individual lures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)18803-18808
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number44
StatePublished - Nov 3 2009


  • Bird odorants
  • Human odorants across different ethnicities
  • Nonanal-baited traps
  • Semiochemicals
  • Single sensillum recordings

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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