How do insects smell? Badly, according to a new study, if they lack a certain kind of protein critical to their ability to detect and interpret pheromones – the insect equivalent of "smelling."
Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center have discovered how a protein, called an olfactory binding protein, links incoming pheromone signals and specific nerve cells in an insects brain, which in turn translate those signals. Pheromones are chemical signals given off by animals that, when detected by others of the same species, mediate a variety of behaviors, such as feeding, mating and colonizing.
The findings not only shed light on insect behavior, but also suggest that olfactory binding proteins may be new targets for synthetic chemicals that could trick insects like mosquitoes into traps or could function as repellents, said Dr. Dean Smith, associate professor of pharmacology at UT Southwestern and senior author on the study. Humans give off signals that attract mosquitoes, the insect responsible for spreading malaria, which kills up to 3 million people each year.
Amanda Siegfried | EurekAlert!
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