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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1995 Jan 3; 92(1): 44–49.

Chemistry of sex attraction.


The chemical communication system used to attract mates involves not only the overt chemical signals but also indirectly a great deal of chemistry in the emitter and receiver. As an example, in emitting female moths, this includes enzymes (and cofactors, mRNA, genes) of the pheromone biosynthetic pathways, hormones (and genes) involved in controlling pheromone production, receptors and second messengers for the hormones, and host plant cues that control release of the hormone. In receiving male moths, this includes the chemistry of pheromone transportation in antennal olfactory hairs (binding proteins and sensillar esterases) and the chemistry of signal transduction, which includes specific dendritic pheromone receptors and a rapid inositol triphosphate second messenger signal. A fluctuating plume structure is an integral part of the signal since the antennal receptors need intermittent stimulation to sustain upwind flight. Input from the hundreds of thousands of sensory cells is processed and integrated with other modalities in the central nervous system, but many unknown factors modulate the information before it is fed to motor neurons for behavioral responses. An unknown brain control center for pheromone perception is discussed relative to data from behavioral-threshold studies showing modulation by biogenic amines, such as octopamine and serotonin, from genetic studies on pheromone discrimination, and from behavioral and electrophysiological studies with behavioral antagonists.

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Selected References

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