Bombykol receptors in the silkworm moth and the fruit fly

Zainulabeuddin Syed, Artyom Kopp, Deborah A. Kimbrell, Walter S. Leal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Male moths are endowed with odorant receptors (ORs) to detect species-specific sex pheromones with remarkable sensitivity and selectivity. We serendipitously discovered that an endogenous OR in the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, is highly sensitive to the sex pheromone of the silkworm moth, bombykol. Intriguingly, the fruit fly detectors are more sensitive than the receptors of the silk-worm moth, although its ecological significance is unknown. By expression in the "empty neuron" system, we identified the fruit fly bombykol-sensitive OR as DmelOR7a (= DmOR7a). The profiles of this receptor in response to bombykol in the native sensilla (ab4) or expressed in the empty neuron system (ab3 sensilla) are indistinguishable. Both WT and transgenic flies responded with high sensitivity, in a dose-dependent manner, and with rapid signal termination. In contrast, the same empty neuron expressing the moth bombykol receptor, BmorOR1, demonstrated low sensitivity and slow signal inactivation. When expressed in the trichoid sensilla T1 of the fruit fly, the neuron housing BmorOR1 responded with sensitivity comparable to that of the native trichoid sensilla in the silkworm moth. By challenging the native bombykol receptor in the fruit fly with high doses of another odorant to which the receptor responds with the highest sensitivity, we demonstrate that slow signal termination is induced by overdose of a stimulus. As opposed to the empty neuron system in the basiconic sensilla, the structural, biochemical, and/or biophysical features of the sensilla make the T1 trichoid system of the fly a better surrogate for the moth receptor.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9436-9439
Number of pages4
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number20
StatePublished - May 18 2010


  • BmorOR1
  • Bombyx mori
  • DmelOR7a
  • Drosophila melanogaster
  • Signal inactivation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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