Insect Antenna-Based Biosensors for In Situ Detection of Volatiles

  • Matthias Schott
  • Christoph Wehrenfennig
  • Tina Gasch
  • Andreas Vilcinskas
Part of the Advances in Biochemical Engineering/Biotechnology book series (ABE, volume 136)


Insect antennae are among the most sensitive and selective chemical-sensing organs in the animal kingdom. Insects can perceive picograms of specific volatile organic compounds per cubic meter of air in milliseconds, which is far below the detection thresholds of current analytical devices. These exceptional sensing abilities have many uses in the context of insect biotechnology. Living specimens or parts of them, such as isolated antennae or individual proteins, can serve as biosensors in the field. As volatiles occur in a crude mixture in the environment, knowing which trigger-volatiles are crucial for the insects’ perception of specific incidents is of great value. This knowledge promotes the development of selective sensors for applications, such as fire detection. In this chapter, we discuss the different technical procedures for the preparation and use of insect-based biosensors for the detection of organic volatiles, including those based on insect behavior, insect olfactory proteins, and biomimetic sensing units. We also consider the use of these applications in portable devices outside the laboratory under field conditions.

Graphical Abstract


Biosensor Electroantennography GC–MS/EAD Mobile GC–MS Needle-trap device Odorant receptor VOC detection VOC quantification 





Electroantennographic detection


Field-effect transistors


Flame ionization detector






Needle-trap device


Odorant-binding proteins






Single-sensillum recordings


Solid-phase microextraction


Volatile organic compounds



The authors would like to acknowledge project funding provided by the Hessian Ministry of Science and Art via the LOEWE research focus “AmbiProbe” and the LOEWE research focus “Insect Biotechnology,” which included a generous grant to A.V. We thank Merid Negash Getahun and Dr. Shannon Olsson for their support with the SSR measurements. The authors are indebted to Dr. Richard M. Twyman for the careful editing of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthias Schott
    • 1
  • Christoph Wehrenfennig
    • 2
  • Tina Gasch
    • 1
  • Andreas Vilcinskas
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Phytopathology and Applied ZoologyJustus-Liebig-University of GiessenGiessenGermany
  2. 2.Institute of Soil Science and Soil ConservationJustus-Liebig-University of GiessenGiessenGermany

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