A single class of olfactory neurons mediates behavioural responses to a Drosophila sex pheromone

Nature. 2007 Mar 29;446(7135):542-6. doi: 10.1038/nature05672.


Insects, like many other animals, use sex pheromones to coordinate their reproductive behaviours. Volatile pheromones are detected by odorant receptors expressed in olfactory receptor neurons (ORNs). Whereas fruit odours typically activate multiple ORN classes, pheromones are thought to act through single dedicated classes of ORN. This model predicts that activation of such an ORN class should be sufficient to trigger the appropriate behavioural response. Here we show that the Drosophila melanogaster male-specific pheromone 11-cis-vaccenyl acetate (cVA) acts through the receptor Or67d to regulate both male and female mating behaviour. Mutant males that lack Or67d inappropriately court other males, whereas mutant females are less receptive to courting males. These data suggest that cVA has opposite effects in the two sexes: inhibiting mating behaviour in males but promoting mating behaviour in females. Replacing Or67d with moth pheromone receptors renders these ORNs sensitive to the corresponding moth pheromones. In such flies, moth pheromones elicit behavioural responses that mimic the normal response to cVA. Thus, activation of a single ORN class is both necessary and sufficient to mediate behavioural responses to the Drosophila sex pheromone cVA.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Courtship
  • Drosophila melanogaster / cytology
  • Drosophila melanogaster / drug effects*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Neurons / classification
  • Neurons / drug effects*
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Oleic Acids / metabolism
  • Oleic Acids / pharmacology
  • Pheromones / metabolism
  • Pheromones / pharmacology
  • Receptors, Odorant / genetics
  • Receptors, Odorant / metabolism*
  • Sex Attractants / metabolism
  • Sex Attractants / pharmacology*
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / drug effects*
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Smell / drug effects*
  • Smell / genetics
  • Smell / physiology


  • 11-cis-vaccenyl acetate
  • Oleic Acids
  • Pheromones
  • Receptors, Odorant
  • Sex Attractants