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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2017

Functional evolution of Lepidoptera olfactory receptors revealed by deorphanization of a moth repertoire

de Fouchier, Arthur; Walker, William B., III; Montagne, Nicolas; Steiner, Claudia; Binyameen, Muhammad; Schlyter, Fredrik; Chertemps, Thomas; Maria, Annick; Francois, Marie-Christine; Monsempes, Christelle; Anderson, Peter; Hansson, Bill S.; Larsson, Mattias C.; Jacquin-Joly, Emmanuelle


Insects detect their hosts or mates primarily through olfaction, and olfactory receptors (ORs) are at the core of odorant detection. Each species has evolved a unique repertoire of ORs whose functional properties are expected to meet its ecological needs, though little is known about the molecular basis of olfaction outside Diptera. Here we report a pioneer functional analysis of a large array of ORs in a lepidopteran, the herbivorous pest Spodoptera littoralis. We demonstrate that most ORs are narrowly tuned to ubiquitous plant volatiles at low, relevant odorant titres. Our phylogenetic analysis highlights a basic conservation of function within the receptor repertoire of Lepidoptera, across the expansive evolutionary radiation of different major clades. Our study provides a reference for further studies of olfactory mechanisms in Lepidoptera, a historically crucial insect order in olfactory research.


Chemical ecology; Entomology; Olfactory receptors; Phylogenetics

Published in

Nature Communications
2017, Volume: 8, article number: 15709