A Single Sex Pheromone Receptor Determines Chemical Response Specificity of Sexual Behavior in the Silkmoth Bombyx mori

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Sakurai, Takeshi ; Mitsuno, Hidefumi ; Haupt, Stephan Shuichi ; Uchino, Keiro ; Yokohari, Fumio ; Nishioka, Takaaki ; Kobayashi, Isao ; Sezutsu, Hideki ; Tamura, Toshiki ; Kanzaki, Ryohei (2011)
  • Publisher: Public Library of Science
  • Journal: PLoS Genetics, volume 7, issue 6 (issn: 1553-7390, eissn: 1553-7404)
  • Related identifiers: doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1002115, pmc: PMC3128102
  • Subject: Molecular Genetics | Research Article | Biology | Neuroscience | Chemical Ecology | Olfactory System | Gene Identification and Analysis | QH426-470 | Ecology | Genetics | Sensory Systems | Neuroethology
    mesheuropmc: fungi

In insects and other animals, intraspecific communication between individuals of the opposite sex is mediated in part by chemical signals called sex pheromones. In most moth species, male moths rely heavily on species-specific sex pheromones emitted by female moths to identify and orient towards an appropriate mating partner among a large number of sympatric insect species. The silkmoth, Bombyx mori, utilizes the simplest possible pheromone system, in which a single pheromone component, (E, Z)-10,12-hexadecadienol (bombykol), is sufficient to elicit full sexual behavior. We have previously shown that the sex pheromone receptor BmOR1 mediates specific detection of bombykol in the antennae of male silkmoths. However, it is unclear whether the sex pheromone receptor is the minimally sufficient determination factor that triggers initiation of orientation behavior towards a potential mate. Using transgenic silkmoths expressing the sex pheromone receptor PxOR1 of the diamondback moth Plutella xylostella in BmOR1-expressing neurons, we show that the selectivity of the sex pheromone receptor determines the chemical response specificity of sexual behavior in the silkmoth. Bombykol receptor neurons expressing PxOR1 responded to its specific ligand, (Z)-11-hexadecenal (Z11-16:Ald), in a dose-dependent manner. Male moths expressing PxOR1 exhibited typical pheromone orientation behavior and copulation attempts in response to Z11-16:Ald and to females of P. xylostella. Transformation of the bombykol receptor neurons had no effect on their projections in the antennal lobe. These results indicate that activation of bombykol receptor neurons alone is sufficient to trigger full sexual behavior. Thus, a single gene defines behavioral selectivity in sex pheromone communication in the silkmoth. Our findings show that a single molecular determinant can not only function as a modulator of behavior but also as an all-or-nothing initiator of a complex species-specific behavioral sequence.
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