Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

’Blinding’ an insect’s sense of smell may be the best repellent

22.02.2005


Don’t stop and smell the roses: "blinding" an insect’s sense of smell may be the best repellent, according to research by Rockefeller University scientists "Pest insects have a profound negative impact on agriculture and human health," says Rockefeller University’s Leslie Vosshall, Ph.D. "They are responsible for global losses of crops and stored agricultural products as well as the spread of many diseases."

In the heated battle between people and insect pests, Vosshall and colleagues, in collaboration with the biotech company Sentigen Biosciences, Inc., report in the February 22nd issue of Current Biology that an understanding of insects’ sense of smell may finally give humans the upper hand.

The researchers studied four very different insect species: a benign insect favored by researchers, the fruit fly, which is attracted to rotting fruit, and three pest insects: the medfly, which is a citrus pest; the corn earworm moth, which damages corn, cotton and tomato crops; and the malaria mosquito, which targets humans. They found that one gene, shown to be responsible for the sense of smell in fruit flies, has the same function in these pest insects, which are separated by over 250 million years evolution



"While all these insects have sensitive olfactory systems, they all have very different smell preferences," says Vosshall, head of the Laboratory of Neurogenetics and Behavior. "Yet this odorant receptor is highly conserved across all of these different species."

Vosshall’s laboratory previously published research demonstrating that out of 62 odorant receptors in the fruit fly, only a single one, named Or83b, was essential the sense of smell in fruit flies. When they removed the gene, the mutant flies couldn’t smell a wide variety of different odors. The scientists then examined the fruit fly’s 61 other odorant receptors and found that the proteins never made it to the ends of the olfactory neurons, called dendrites, where they would normally interact with the different incoming smells.

"The odors that interest flies in the outside world float around in the air until they contact tiny hairs on the fly’s antennae," Vosshall says. "The odors pass through tiny holes in the hairs where they bind the odorant receptors at the ends of nerve cells. But in the mutant flies those odorant receptors fail to be delivered to the nerve endings, or dendrites. As a result, the flies are blind to smells.

Odorant receptor proteins, even within one species, are very different from one another. Researchers think that each of these receptors binds a different set of smell molecules, helping the insect recognize a large number of odors in the environment. When comparing the receptors across species there are groups of receptors that are only found in mosquitoes and then different groups specific to fruit flies. These differences most likely tailor each insect’s sense of smell to its preferred plant or animal target. For fruit flies, these receptors may help the fly target rotting fruit, and in malaria mosquitoes, they are probably specific for human body odor. But Or83b is highly similar among insects, regardless of their particular smell preferences.

Vosshall and colleagues placed Or83b from the different species into mutant fruit flies that were missing their own Or83b gene to determine if the function of the protein was also conserved. They found that even though the genes were from very different species, these genes from other insects restored the fly’s sense of smell.

Then they looked closer at the olfactory nerve cells. While in mutant flies the other odorant receptors were never transported to the dendrite, the receptors in flies making Or83b from the different species were all correctly located at the ends of the olfactory neurons.

Though it remains to be shown that the different Or83b genes are similarly essential for the sense of smell in each respective insect species, Vosshall is confident that this information may provide a starting point for future designs of pesticides and disease-controlling insect repellents.

"Although mosquitoes and flies have very different opinions about odors," Vosshall says, "this gene functionally substitutes. Insects are very smart and have evolved a lot, but from the point of view of vulnerability, this makes them very vulnerable to strategies that would block their sense of smell. If we could use this to chemically interrupt the transport of the odorant receptors, we could make mosquitoes ’blind’ to humans. That in turn would be a good way to prevent disease transmission."

First author Walton D. Jones is a Biomedical Fellow in the Laboratory of Neurogenetics and Behavior at Rockefeller University. Contributing authors from Sentigen Biosciences include Thuy-Ai T. Nguyen, Brian Kloss and Kevin J. Lee.

Kristine Kelly | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.rockefeller.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Designer cells: artificial enzyme can activate a gene switch
22.05.2018 | Universität Basel

nachricht Flow of cerebrospinal fluid regulates neural stem cell division
22.05.2018 | Helmholtz Zentrum München - Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Gesundheit und Umwelt

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: LZH showcases laser material processing of tomorrow at the LASYS 2018

At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.

At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...

Im Focus: Self-illuminating pixels for a new display generation

There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?

At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

Im Focus: Dozens of binaries from Milky Way's globular clusters could be detectable by LISA

Next-generation gravitational wave detector in space will complement LIGO on Earth

The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...

Im Focus: Entangled atoms shine in unison

A team led by Austrian experimental physicist Rainer Blatt has succeeded in characterizing the quantum entanglement of two spatially separated atoms by observing their light emission. This fundamental demonstration could lead to the development of highly sensitive optical gradiometers for the precise measurement of the gravitational field or the earth's magnetic field.

The age of quantum technology has long been heralded. Decades of research into the quantum world have led to the development of methods that make it possible...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Designer cells: artificial enzyme can activate a gene switch

22.05.2018 | Life Sciences

PR of MCC: Carbon removal from atmosphere unavoidable for 1.5 degree target

22.05.2018 | Earth Sciences

Achema 2018: New camera system monitors distillation and helps save energy

22.05.2018 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>