Receptors and neurons for fly odors in Drosophila

Curr Biol. 2007 Apr 3;17(7):606-12. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2007.02.043. Epub 2007 Mar 15.


Remarkably little is known about the molecular and cellular basis of mate recognition in Drosophila[1]. We systematically examined the trichoid sensilla, one of the three major types of sensilla that house olfactory receptor neurons (ORNs) on the Drosophila antenna, by electrophysiological analysis. We find that none respond strongly to food odors but that all respond to fly odors. Two subtypes of trichoid sensilla contain ORNs that respond to cis-vaccenyl acetate (cVA), an anti-aphrodisiac pheromone transferred from males to females during mating [2-4]. All trichoid sensilla yield responses to a male extract; a subset yield responses to a virgin-female extract as well. Thus, males can be distinguished from virgin females by the activity they elicit among the trichoid ORN population. We then systematically tested all members of the Odor receptor (Or) gene family [5-7] that are expressed in trichoid sensilla [8] by using an in vivo expression system [9]. Four receptors respond to fly odors in this system: Two respond to extracts of both males and virgin females, and two respond to cVA. We propose a model describing how these receptors might be used by a male to distinguish suitable from unsuitable mating partners through a simple logic.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Acetates
  • Animals
  • Drosophila / anatomy & histology
  • Drosophila / physiology*
  • Drosophila Proteins / physiology*
  • Electrophysiology
  • Female
  • Male
  • Odorants*
  • Oleic Acids / physiology
  • Olfactory Pathways
  • Olfactory Receptor Neurons / physiology*
  • Pheromones / physiology
  • Sense Organs / cytology
  • Sense Organs / physiology
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal*
  • Smell / physiology


  • Acetates
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Oleic Acids
  • Pheromones
  • cis-vaccenyl acetate