Olfactory discrimination of amino acids in brown bullhead catfish

Chem Senses. 2000 Feb;25(1):21-9. doi: 10.1093/chemse/25.1.21.


Olfactory discrimination of amino acids was investigated in brown bullhead catfish (Ameiurus nebulosus). Based on the magnitude of the observed food search activity of catfish conditioned to single amino acids, the tested compounds were classified as being detected by the catfish as equal to, similar to, or different from the conditioned stimulus. L-Proline (L-Pro)-conditioned brown bullhead catfish discriminated all amino acids from L-Pro, but catfish conditioned to L-valine (L-Val) and L-isoleucine (L-Ile) did not discriminate L-Val from L-Ile nor L-Ile from L-Val; however, all other amino acids tested were always discriminated from these two compounds. Catfish conditioned to L-alanine (L-Ala) discriminated basic, acidic and several neutral amino acids with long side-chains (LCNs) from L-Ala; however, they did not always discriminate L-Ala from all neutral amino acids with short side-chains (SCNs). The L-norleucine (L-nLeu)-conditioned fish responded to L-norvaline (L-nVal), L-methionine (L-Met) and L-Ala similarly to L-nLeu, indicating that these amino acids are detected as similar or identical to L-nLeu. L-nLeu was, however, discriminated from L-Ala in L-Ala-conditioned catfish. Interestingly, L-leucine (L-Leu) was discriminated from the conditioned stimuli, L-Ala, L-Ile and L-Val, indicating independent receptors for L-Leu. Although conditioned catfish discriminated other amino acids from L-arginine hydrochloride (L-Arg), in some tests they were unable to discriminate L-Arg from L-lysine hydrochloride (L-Lys). These results imply the existence of independent olfactory receptive pathways for: (i) L-Pro; (ii) basic amino acids (L-Arg and L-Lys); (iii) L-Leu; (iv) other neutral amino acids with branched side-chains (L-Ile and L-Val); (v) neutral amino acids with long linear side-chains (L-nLeu, L-nVal and L-Met); (vi) neutral amino acids with short side-chains; and (vii) amino acids with sulfhydryl groups (L-Cys and L-homoCys).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids*
  • Animals
  • Conditioning, Classical
  • Discrimination Learning*
  • Ictaluridae / physiology*
  • Olfactory Pathways / surgery
  • Smell / physiology*


  • Amino Acids