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The Drosophila odorant-binding protein 28a is involved in the detection of the floral odour ß-ionone


Odorant-binding proteins (OBPs) are small soluble proteins that are thought to transport hydrophobic odorants across the aqueous sensillar lymph to olfactory receptors. A recent study revealed that OBP28a, one of the most abundant Drosophila OBPs, is not required for odorant transport, but acts in buffering rapid odour variation in the odorant environment. To further unravel and decipher its functional role, we expressed recombinant OBP28a and characterized its binding specificity. Using a fluorescent binding assay, we found that OBP28a binds a restricted number of floral-like chemicals, including ß-ionone, with an affinity in the micromolar range. We solved the X-ray crystal structure of OBP28a, which showed extensive conformation changes upon ligand binding. Mutant flies genetically deleted for the OBP28a gene showed altered responses to ß-ionone at a given concentration range, supporting its essential role in the detection of specific compounds present in the natural environment of the fly.

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Odorant-binding proteins


Olfactory-sensory neurons


Odorant receptors


Cis-vaccenyl acetate


Reverse-phase liquid chromatography


Circular dichroism


Size-exclusion chromatography


Multi-angle laser light scattering


Pentaethylene glycol




Single-sensillum recording


Pheromone-binding protein from Leucophaea maderae


Odorant-binding protein 76a from D. melanogaster


Pheromone-binding protein 1 from Apis mellifera


Odorant-binding protein 14 from Apis mellifera


Pheromone-binding protein from Bombyx mori


Odorant-binding protein 1 from Anopheles gambiae


Odorant-binding protein 1 from Culex pipiens quinquefasciatus


Buffered minimal glycerol


Yeast nitrogen base


Buffered minimal methanol


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We thank Dr. J. R. Carlson for Drosophila lines; Dr. C. Everaerts for help with the statistics; and Dr. T. Tanimura for discussion and critical reading. The ESRF is acknowledged for access to beamlines via its in-house research program. Mass spectrometry experiments were performed by the Plateforme d’Analyse Protéomique de Paris Sud-Ouest (PAPPSO, Micalis Institute, INRA, AgroParisTech, Université Paris-Saclay, 78350 Jouy-en-Josas, France).


This work was partly supported by grants from the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, of the Université de Bourgogne-Franche Comté, the Bourgogne-Franche Comté Regional Council (PARI 2010–2011–2012, AGRALE1 Project), and a postdoctoral fellowship from the Bourgogne Regional Council (D.G.). Fellowship for PhD to K.R. (INRA + Bourgogne-Franche Comté Regional Council).

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JFF and LB designed the research. DG, KR, FN, NP, SF, GG, and TC performed the research. DG, KR, FN, SF, GG, TC, and MM analysed the data. The manuscript was written by DG, KR, JFF, and LB. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Loïc Briand.

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Gonzalez, D., Rihani, K., Neiers, F. et al. The Drosophila odorant-binding protein 28a is involved in the detection of the floral odour ß-ionone. Cell. Mol. Life Sci. 77, 2565–2577 (2020).

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  • Drosophila melanogaster
  • Insect
  • Olfaction
  • Odorant
  • Pheromone
  • Odorant-protein-binding assay