Journal of Biosciences

, Volume 39, Issue 4, pp 555–563 | Cite as

Molecular determinants of odorant receptor function in insects

  • Anandasankar Ray
  • Wynand van der Goes van Naters
  • John R Carlson


The olfactory system of Drosophila melanogaster provides a powerful model to study molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying function of a sensory system. In the 1970s Siddiqi and colleagues pioneered the application of genetics to olfactory research and isolated several mutant Drosophila with odorant-specific defects in olfactory behaviour, suggesting that odorants are detected differentially by the olfactory system. Since then basic principles of olfactory system function and development have emerged using Drosophila as a model. Nearly four decades later we can add computational methods to further our understanding of how specific odorants are detected by receptors. Using a comparative approach we identify two categories of short amino acid sequence motifs: ones that are conserved family-wide predominantly in the C-terminal half of most receptors, and ones that are present in receptors that detect a specific odorant, 4-methylphenol, found predominantly in the N-terminal half. The odorant-specific sequence motifs are predictors of phenol detection in Anopheles gambiae and other insects, suggesting they are likely to participate in odorant binding. Conversely, the family-wide motifs are expected to participate in shared functions across all receptors and a mutation in the most conserved motif leads to a reduction in odor response. These findings lay a foundation for investigating functional domains within odorant receptors that can lead to a molecular understanding of odor detection.


Drosophila motifs odor receptor olfaction 

Supplementary material

12038_2014_9447_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (1.1 mb)
ESM 1 (PDF 1.13 mb)


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Copyright information

© Indian Academy of Sciences 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anandasankar Ray
    • 1
    • 2
  • Wynand van der Goes van Naters
    • 2
    • 3
  • John R Carlson
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of EntomologyUniversity of CaliforniaRiversideUSA
  2. 2.Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental BiologyYale UniversityNew HavenUSA
  3. 3.School of BiosciencesCardiff UniversityCardiffUK

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