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PLoS One. 2011;6(6):e21785. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0021785. Epub 2011 Jun 30.

Functional characterization of the octenol receptor neuron on the maxillary palps of the yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti.

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Invasive Insect Biocontrol and Behavior Laboratory, Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, Plant Sciences Institute, Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture, Beltsville, Maryland, United States of America.



1-Octen-3-ol (octenol) is a common attractant released by vertebrates which in combination with carbon dioxide (CO(2)) attracts hematophagous arthropods including mosquitoes. A receptor neuron contained within basiconic sensilla on the maxillary palps of adult mosquitoes responds selectively to 1-octen-3-ol. Recently, an odorant receptor (AaegOR8) known to occur on the maxillary palps was expressed in a heterologous system and demonstrated to be selectively sensitive to (R)-(-)-1-octen-3-ol, one of two enantiomeric forms. Lesser responses were elicited by stimulation with the (S)-enantiomer and various structural analogs.


Here we characterize the specificity of the octenol receptor neuron in the yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti (L.), in vivo using single cell recordings. The octenol neuron is exquisitely sensitive to (R)-(-)-1-octen-3-ol; comparable responses to (S)-(+)-1-octen-3-ol were elicited only at stimulus doses over 100× that required for the (R)-enantiomer. An intermediate response closer to that elicited by the (R)-(-)-enantiomer was elicited by racemic 1-octen-3-ol. Small structural changes in (R)-(-)-1-octen-3-ol resulted in large decreases in responses. Increases in spike activity were also elicited in the octenol neuron by 2-undecanone, a known repellent; other repellents (DEET, IR3535 and picaridin) were inactive.


The results of our electrophysiological studies of the octenol receptor neuron in vivo approximates results of a previous study of the octenol receptor (AaegOR8 with its obligate partner Aaeg\ORco) expressed heterologously in Xenopus oocytes. By comparison of our current results with those of the heterologous expression study, we conclude that specificity of the octenol receptor neuron can be explained largely by characteristics of the OR alone without other associated proteins present in vivo. Our findings show that repellents may have specific stimulatory effects on receptor neurons and support the notion of repellents as modulators of mosquito odorant receptor activity.

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