Olfactory processing and behavior downstream from highly selective receptor neurons

Nat Neurosci. 2007 May;10(5):623-30. doi: 10.1038/nn1881. Epub 2007 Apr 8.


In both the vertebrate nose and the insect antenna, most olfactory receptor neurons (ORNs) respond to multiple odors. However, some ORNs respond to just a single odor, or at most to a few highly related odors. It has been hypothesized that narrowly tuned ORNs project to narrowly tuned neurons in the brain, and that these dedicated circuits mediate innate behavioral responses to a particular ligand. Here we have investigated neural activity and behavior downstream from two narrowly tuned ORN types in Drosophila melanogaster. We found that genetically ablating either of these ORN types impairs innate behavioral attraction to their cognate ligand. Neurons in the antennal lobe postsynaptic to one of these ORN types are, like their presynaptic ORNs, narrowly tuned to a pheromone. However, neurons postsynaptic to the second ORN type are broadly tuned. These results demonstrate that some narrowly tuned ORNs project to dedicated central circuits, ensuring a tight connection between stimulus and behavior, whereas others project to central neurons that participate in the ensemble representations of many odors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetates / pharmacology
  • Action Potentials / drug effects
  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Acyclic Monoterpenes
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics
  • Drosophila melanogaster
  • Female
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Maze Learning / physiology
  • Odorants
  • Oleic Acids / pharmacology
  • Olfactory Pathways / physiology*
  • Olfactory Receptor Neurons / drug effects
  • Olfactory Receptor Neurons / physiology*
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques / methods
  • Pheromones / pharmacology
  • Sense Organs / cytology*
  • Smell*
  • Terpenes / pharmacology


  • Acetates
  • Acyclic Monoterpenes
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Oleic Acids
  • Pheromones
  • Terpenes
  • cis-vaccenyl acetate
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • geranyl acetate