1. University of Hohenheim, Institute of Physiology (230), Stuttgart, Germany
2. Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Department of Evolutionary Neuroethology, Jena, Germany
3. Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Institute of Biology/Zoology, Department of Animal Physiology, Halle (Saale), Germany
Under given environmental conditions, the desert locust (Schistocera gregaria) forms destructive migratory swarms of billions of animals, leading to enormous crop losses in invaded regions. Swarm formation requires massive reproduction as well as aggregation of the animals. Pheromones that are detected via the olfactory system have been reported to control both reproductive and aggregation behavior. However, the molecular basis of pheromone detection in the antennae of Schistocerca gregaria is unknown. As an initial step to disclose pheromone receptors, we sequenced the antennal transcriptome of the desert locust. By subsequent bioinformatical approaches, 119 distinct nucleotide sequences encoding candidate odorant receptors (ORs) were identified. Phylogenetic analyses employing the identified ORs from Schistocerca gregaria (SgreORs) and OR sequences from the related species Locusta migratoria revealed a group of locust ORs positioned close to the root, i.e. at a basal site in a phylogenetic tree. Within this particular OR group (termed basal or b-OR group), the locust OR sequences were strictly orthologous, a trait reminiscent of pheromone receptors from lepidopteran species. In situ hybridization experiments with antennal tissue demonstrated expression of b-OR types from Schistocerca gregaria in olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs) of either sensilla trichodea or sensilla basiconica, both of which have been reported to respond to pheromonal substances. More importantly, two-color fluorescent in situ hybridization experiments showed that most b-OR types were expressed in cells co-expressing the “sensory neuron membrane protein 1” (SNMP1), a marker indicative of pheromone-sensitive OSNs in insects. Analyzing the expression of a larger number of SgreOR types outside the b-OR group revealed that only a few of them were co-expressed with SNMP1.
In summary, we have identified several candidate pheromone receptors from Schistocerca gregaria that could mediate responses to pheromones implicated in controlling reproduction and aggregation behavior.
Keywords: olfaction, insect, pheromone receptor, desert locust, antenna, sensory neuron membrane protein 1