Molecular Mechanism of Insect Olfaction: Olfactory Receptors

  • Heinz BreerEmail author
  • Jörg Fleischer
  • Pablo Pregitzer
  • Jürgen Krieger


Insects have a remarkable capacity to sense a wide range of volatile chemicals in their environment with high sensitivity and specificity. Chemical cues originating from various sources, including preys, host plants or conspecifics are received and processed by highly specialized chemosensory neurons that relay the information to the brain and thus elicit distinct odor-evoked behaviors. The molecular basis underlying the reception of numerous odorous compounds has intensely been explored over the last decade. The emerging picture indicates that the olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs) of insects recognize and discriminate the wealth of odorants and pheromones with a repertoire of ligand-binding membrane proteins that are encoded by large and diverse gene families. The molecular mechanisms for converting the chemical signal into an electrical response of the sensory cells are not entirely clear but seem to comprise both ionotropic as well as metabotropic contributions. In this chapter, we compile current information about the primary processes of odor sensing in insects, concentrating on the molecular identity and functional implications of olfactory receptors in the recognition and the transduction of odorant and pheromone signals.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Heinz Breer
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jörg Fleischer
    • 2
  • Pablo Pregitzer
    • 1
  • Jürgen Krieger
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute of PhysiologyUniversity HohenheimStuttgartGermany
  2. 2.Department of Animal Physiology, Institute of Biology/ZoologyMartin Luther University Halle-WittenbergHalle (Saale)Germany

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