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Research article2022Peer reviewedOpen access

The human odorant receptor OR10A6 is tuned to the pheromone of the commensal fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster

Frey, Tim; Kwadha, Charles; Haag, Franziska; Pelletier, Julien; Wallin, Erika A.; Holgersson, Elsa; Hedenstrom, Erik; Bohman, Bjorn; Bengtsson, Marie; Becher, Paul G.; Krautwurst, Dietmar; Witzgall, Peter


All living things speak chemistry. The challenge is to reveal the vocabulary, the odorants that enable communication across phylogenies and to translate them to physiological, behavioral, and ecological function. Olfactory receptors (ORs) interface animals with airborne odorants. Expression in heterologous cells makes it possible to interrogate single ORs and to identify cognate ligands. The cosmopolitan, anthropophilic strain of the vinegar fly Drosophila melanogaster depends on human resources and housing for survival. Curiously, humans sense the pheromone (Z)-4-undecenal (Z4-11Al) released by single fly females. A screening of all human ORs shows that the most highly expressed OR10A6 is tuned to Z4-11Al. Females of an ancestral African fly strain release a blend of Z4-11Al and Z4-9Al that produces a different aroma, which is how we distinguish these fly strains by nose. That flies and humans sense Z4-11Al via dedicated ORs shows how convergent evolution shapes communication channels between vertebrate and invertebrate animals.

Published in

2022, Volume: 25, number: 11, article number: 105269Publisher: CELL PRESS