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Front Cell Neurosci. 2019 Apr 29;13:134. doi: 10.3389/fncel.2019.00134. eCollection 2019.

A Functional Agonist of Insect Olfactory Receptors: Behavior, Physiology and Structure.

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1
National Centre for Biological Sciences, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Bengaluru, India.
2
Department of Biology, Lund University, Lund, Sweden.

Abstract

Chemical signaling is ubiquitous and employs a variety of receptor types to detect the cacophony of molecules relevant for each living organism. Insects, our most diverse taxon, have evolved unique olfactory receptors with as little as 10% sequence identity between receptor types. We have identified a promiscuous volatile, 2-methyltetrahydro-3-furanone (coffee furanone), that elicits chemosensory and behavioral activity across multiple insect orders and receptors. In vivo and in vitro physiology showed that coffee furanone was detected by roughly 80% of the recorded neurons expressing the insect-specific olfactory receptor complex in the antenna of Drosophila melanogaster, at concentrations similar to other known, and less promiscuous, ligands. Neurons expressing specialized receptors, other chemoreceptor types, or mutants lacking the complex entirely did not respond to this compound. This indicates that coffee furanone is a promiscuous ligand for the insect olfactory receptor complex itself and did not induce non-specific cellular responses. In addition, we present homology modeling and docking studies with selected olfactory receptors that suggest conserved interaction regions for both coffee furanone and known ligands. Apart from its physiological activity, this known food additive elicits a behavioral response for several insects, including mosquitoes, flies, and cockroaches. A broad-scale behaviorally active molecule non-toxic to humans thus has significant implications for health and agriculture. Coffee furanone serves as a unique tool to unlock molecular, physiological, and behavioral relationships across this diverse receptor family and animal taxa.

KEYWORDS:

behavior; electrophysiology; heterologous expression; molecular docking; olfaction; olfactory receptors

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