Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences CMLS

, Volume 63, Issue 14, pp 1658-1676

First online:

Soluble proteins in insect chemical communication

  • P. PelosiAffiliated withDipartimento di Chimica e Biotecnologie Agrarie, University of Pisa (Italy) Email author 
  • , J. -J. ZhouAffiliated withBiological Chemistry Division, Rothamsted Research Email author 
  • , L. P. BanAffiliated withDepartment of Entomology, China Agricultural University
  • , M. CalvelloAffiliated withDipartimento di Chimica e Biotecnologie Agrarie, University of Pisa (Italy)

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Our understanding of the biochemical mechanisms that mediate chemoreception in insects has been greatly improved after the discovery of olfactory and taste receptor proteins. However, the presence of soluble polypeptides in high concentration around the dendrites of sensory neurons still poses unanswered questions. More than 2 decades after their discovery and despite the wealth of structural information available, the physiological function of odorant-binding proteins is not well understood. More recently, members of a second family of soluble polypeptides, the chemosensory proteins, were also discovered in the lymph of chemosensilla. Here we review the structural properties of both classes of soluble proteins, their affinity to small ligands, and their expression in the different parts of the insect body and subcellular localisation. Finally, we discuss current ideas and models of the role of such proteins in insect chemoreception.


Insects odorant-binding proteins chemosensory proteins olfaction pheromones chemical communication