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J Exp Biol. 2006 Oct;209(Pt 19):3729-41.

Receptor expression and sympatric speciation: unique olfactory receptor neuron responses in F1 hybrid Rhagoletis populations.

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  • 1Department of Entomology, Barton Lab, NYSAES, Cornell University, Geneva, NY 14456, USA.


The Rhagoletis pomonella species complex is one of the foremost examples supporting the occurrence of sympatric speciation. A recent study found that reciprocal F(1) hybrid offspring from different host plant-infesting populations in the complex displayed significantly reduced olfactory host preference in flight-tunnel assays. Behavioral and electrophysiological studies indicate that olfactory cues from host fruit are important chemosensory signals for flies to locate fruit for mating and oviposition. The reduced olfactory abilities of hybrids could therefore constitute a significant post-mating barrier to gene flow among fly populations. The present study investigated the source of changes in the hybrid olfactory system by examining peripheral chemoreception in F(1) hybrid flies, using behaviorally relevant volatiles from the parent host fruit. Single-sensillum electrophysiological analyses revealed significant changes in olfactory receptor neuron (ORN) response specificities in hybrid flies when compared to parent ORN responses. We report that flies from F(1) crosses of apple-, hawthorn- and flowering dogwood-origin populations of R. pomonella exhibited distinct ORN response profiles absent from any parent population. These peripheral alterations in ORN response profiles could result from misexpression of multiple receptors in hybrid neurons as a function of genomic incompatibilities in receptor-gene pathways in parent populations. We conclude that these changes in peripheral chemoreception could impact olfactory host preference and contribute directly to reproductive isolation in the Rhagoletis complex, or could be genetically coupled to other host-associated traits.

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