Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Choosing a mate: It's the brain, not the nose, that knows

07.10.2016

How does a male moth find the right sort of female for mating, when there are two similar types luring him with their pheromones? In many species, differences in the antenna used by the male to smell these perfumes are responsible for his choice. But in the European Corn Borer, changes in the male's brain seem to dictate his choice between two types of available females, as shown by researchers from the University of Amsterdam, the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, and the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology.

Female moths produce a sex pheromone, a different blend of chemicals for each species, which attracts males from a distance. Males detect these chemicals with exquisitely sensitive hair-like structures in the antenna. These hairs contain specialized neurons, nerve cells that express pheromone receptors which are activated when they bind to individual pheromone components.


A male and female moth of the European Corn Borer Ostrinia nubilalis: Understanding the pheromone communication in this insect may contribute to a better pest control.

Melanie Unbehend / Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology

Different species have different pheromone receptors, and so the ability to most accurately smell females of the same species prevents attraction to other females. Solving the puzzle of why a certain pheromone receptor is activated only by a specific chemical has motivated much past research.

"Our previous work in mapping the pheromone receptors of the European Corn Borer convinced us that this species doesn't fit the mold, and so we took another approach," says lead author Fotini Koutroumpa.

The European Corn Borer uses a simple pheromone with only two isomeric compounds, identical except for the orientation of a double bond. The two "pheromone strains" of this species produce them in different proportions. E-strain females make mostly the E isomer with traces of the Z isomer, which is highly attractive to E-strain males. Z-strain females release the opposite ratio, attracting Z-strain males.

In both cases, both components are absolutely necessary for attraction, and males of both strains can smell both, with similar or identical antennal structures and pheromone receptors. So what difference among the E and Z males could explain their opposite preferences? "We decided to look for a difference at the genetic level", says co-author Astrid Groot.

By crossing the E and Z strains in the laboratory and mapping the gene governing male preference, the researchers found that the pheromone receptors had little or no effect. Instead, a chromosomal region containing genes involved in neuronal development explained most of the male behavioral response. "This result fits with our previous work showing that E and Z males have different connections between the brain and the neurons containing pheromone receptors," explains co-author Teun Dekker.

This suggests that females of the E or Z strain smell the same to both E and Z males, while their preferences are controlled not by their noses but instead by their brains. "This result will point future research towards the tiny but complex moth brain, and shed light on how the diverse pheromone systems of the thousands of moth species has changed throughout evolution," concludes co-author David Heckel. [DGH]

Original Publication:
Koutroumpa, F. A., Groot, A. T., Dekker, T., Heckel, D. G. (2016). Genetic mapping of male pheromone response in the European Corn Borer identifies candidate genes regulating neurogenesis. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (Early Edition), DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1610515113
http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1610515113

Further Information:
David G. Heckel, Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Hans-Knöll-Str. 8, 07743 Jena, Germany, +49 3641 57 1500, heckel@ice.mpg.de

Contact and Media Requests:
Angela Overmeyer M.A., Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Hans-Knöll-Str. 8, 07743 Jena, +49 3641 57-2110, E-Mail overmeyer@ice.mpg.de

Download high-resolution images via http://www.ice.mpg.de/ext/downloads2016.html

Angela Overmeyer | Max-Planck-Institut für chemische Ökologie

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity
22.09.2017 | DFG-Forschungszentrum für Regenerative Therapien TU Dresden

nachricht The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet
22.09.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

Im Focus: Quantum Sensors Decipher Magnetic Ordering in a New Semiconducting Material

For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.

Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Penn first in world to treat patient with new radiation technology

22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering

Calculating quietness

22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Hope to discover sure signs of life on Mars? New research says look for the element vanadium

22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>