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J Exp Biol. 2001 Feb;204(Pt 3):585-97.

Olfactory and behavioural responses of the blood-sucking bug Triatoma infestans to odours of vertebrate hosts.

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Institute of Zoology, University of Neuch√Ętel, Rue Emile Argand 11, CH-2007, Neuch√Ętel, Switzerland.


Olfactory receptors in basiconic and grooved-peg sensilla on the antenna of fifth-instar Triatoma infestans nymphs respond to host odours. Gas chromatography analyses of host odour extracts coupled to electrophysiological recordings from basiconic sensillum receptors indicate that nonanal is a constituent of sheep wool and chicken feather odour that stimulates one of the receptors in this type of sensillum. Similar analyses revealed isobutyric acid in rabbit odour to be a chemostimulant for one of the receptors in grooved-peg sensilla. The response of the aldehyde receptor was higher to heptanal, octanal and nonanal than to other aliphatic aldehydes, and the response of the acid receptor was higher to isobutyric acid than to other short-chain branched and unbranched acids. The behavioural responses of fifth-instar T. infestans nymphs to nonanal and isobutyric acid in an air-stream on a servosphere indicate that, whereas nonanal causes activation of the bugs, isobutyric acid induces an increase in upwind displacement, i.e. odour-conditioned anemotaxis. Binary mixtures of these compounds did not improve the attraction obtained with isobutyric acid alone. A comparison of the behavioural and electrophysiological responses of the bugs to different amounts of isobutyric acid in air suggests that attraction is obtained at concentrations that causes low-to-moderate increases in the firing rate of the acid-excited receptor in the grooved-peg sensilla, whereas at a dose that evokes relatively high firing rates (>40 Hz) no attraction is obtained.

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