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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Sep 17;110(38):15455-60. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1313707110. Epub 2013 Sep 4.

Pheromone responsiveness threshold depends on temporal integration by antennal lobe projection neurons.

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Department of Advanced Interdisciplinary Studies, Graduate School of Engineering, and Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology, University of Tokyo, Meguro-ku, Tokyo 153-8904, Japan.


The olfactory system of male moths has an extreme sensitivity with the capability to detect and recognize conspecific pheromones dispersed and greatly diluted in the air. Just 170 molecules of the silkmoth (Bombyx mori) sex pheromone bombykol are sufficient to induce sexual behavior in the male. However, it is still unclear how the sensitivity of olfactory receptor neurons (ORNs) is relayed through the brain to generate high behavioral responsiveness. Here, we show that ORN activity that is subthreshold in terms of behavior can be amplified to suprathreshold levels by temporal integration in antennal lobe projection neurons (PNs) if occurring within a specific time window. To control ORN inputs with high temporal resolution, channelrhodopsin-2 was genetically introduced into bombykol-responsive ORNs. Temporal integration in PNs was only observed for weak inputs, but not for strong inputs. Pharmacological dissection revealed that GABAergic mechanisms inhibit temporal integration of strong inputs, showing that GABA signaling regulates PN responses in a stimulus-dependent fashion. Our results show that boosting of the PNs' responses by temporal integration of olfactory information occurs specifically near the behavioral threshold, effectively defining the lower bound for behavioral responsiveness.


olfaction; optogenetics; pheromone orientation behavior; transgenic silkmoth

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