Journal of Comparative Physiology A

, Volume 194, Issue 5, pp 483–489 | Cite as

Dynamic properties of Drosophila olfactory electroantennograms

  • Julia Schuckel
  • Shannon Meisner
  • Päivi H. Torkkeli
  • Andrew S. French
Original Paper


Time-dependent properties of chemical signals are probably crucially important to many animals, but little is known about the dynamics of chemoreceptors. Behavioral evidence of dynamic sensitivity includes the control of moth flight by pheromone plume structure, and the ability of some blood-sucking insects to detect varying concentrations of carbon dioxide, possibly matched to host breathing rates. Measurement of chemoreceptor dynamics has been limited by the technical challenge of producing controlled, accurate modulation of olfactory and gustatory chemical concentrations over suitably wide ranges of amplitude and frequency. We used a new servo-controlled laminar flow system, combined with photoionization detection of surrogate tracer gas, to characterize electroantennograms (EAG) of Drosophila antennae during stimulation with fruit odorants or aggregation pheromone in air. Frequency response functions and coherence functions measured over a bandwidth of 0–100 Hz were well characterized by first-order low-pass linear filter functions. Filter time constant varied over almost a tenfold range, and was characteristic for each odorant, indicating that several dynamically different chemotransduction mechanisms are present. Pheromone response was delayed relative to fruit odors. Amplitude of response, and consequently signal-to-noise ratio, also varied consistently with different compounds. Accurate dynamic characterization promises to provide important new information about chemotransduction and odorant-stimulated behavior.


Antenna Chemosensory Noise Odor Frequency response 



Photoionization detector




Parts per million


Odorant receptor



Supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Dalhousie Medical Research Foundation. The experiments complied with the “Principles of animal care”, publication No. 86-23, revised 1985 of the National Institute of Health, and were approved by the Dalhousie University Committee on Animal Care.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Julia Schuckel
    • 1
  • Shannon Meisner
    • 1
  • Päivi H. Torkkeli
    • 1
  • Andrew S. French
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Physiology and BiophysicsDalhousie UniversityHalifaxCanada

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