Journal of Comparative Physiology A

, Volume 192, Issue 2, pp 199–219 | Cite as

Physiology and glomerular projections of olfactory receptor neurons on the antenna of female Heliothis virescens (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) responsive to behaviorally relevant odors

  • N. K. Hillier
  • C. Kleineidam
  • N. J. Vickers
Original Paper


The neurophysiology and antennal lobe projections of olfactory receptor neurons housed within short trichoid sensilla of female Heliothis virescens F. (Noctuidae: Lepidoptera) were investigated using a combination of cut-sensillum recording and cobalt-lysine staining techniques. Behaviorally relevant odorants, including intra- and inter-sexual pheromonal compounds, plant and floral volatiles were selected for testing sensillar responses. A total of 184 sensilla were categorized into 25 possible sensillar types based on odor responses and sensitivity. Sensilla exhibited both narrow (responding to few odors) and broad (responding to many odors) response spectra. Sixty-six percent of the sensilla identified were stimulated by conspecific odors; in particular, major components of the male H. virescens hairpencil pheromone (hexadecanyl acetate and octadecanyl acetate) and a minor component of the female sex pheromone, (Z)-9-tetradecenal. Following characterization of the responses, olfactory receptor neurons within individual sensilla were stained with cobalt lysine (N=39) and traced to individual glomeruli in the antennal lobe. Olfactory receptor neurons with specific responses to (Z)-9-tetradecenal, a female H. virescens sex pheromone component, projected to the female-specific central large female glomerulus (cLFG) and other glomeruli. Terminal arborizations from sensillar types containing olfactory receptor neurons sensitive to male hairpencil components and plant volatiles were also localized to distinct glomerular locations. This information provides insight into the representation of behaviorally relevant odorants in the female moth olfactory system.


Olfaction Cobalt–lysine staining Sensillum Antennal lobe Receptor neuron 









(Z)-11-hexadecenyl acetate




tetradecanoic acid






hexadecanyl acetate


octadecanyl acetate


hexadecanoic acid


octadecanoic acid




(Z)-3-hexenyl acetate




olfactory receptor neuron


projection neuron


antennal lobe


macroglomerular complex


large female glomeruli


central large female glomerulus


medial large female glomerulus




single sensillum recording



Special thanks to J. Celestino, K. Iceman and D. Kelly for colony maintenance and to C. Fogarty for valuable comments on the manuscript. We are also grateful to Dr. R. Raguso and Dr. J. Tumlinson for kindly providing volatile stock solutions. We also thank S.G. Lee and Dr. T.C. Baker for advice with the cobalt-lysine staining technique. This research was funded by USDA NRICGP no. 1999-03541 and NSF-IBN 9905683 to NJV.

Supplementary material

359_2005_61_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (4.7 mb)
Supplementary material


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© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of UtahSalt Lake CityUSA
  2. 2.Department of Behavioral Physiology and SociobiologyZoologie II, BiozentrumAm HublandGermany

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