An essential role for a CD36-related receptor in pheromone detection in Drosophila

Nature. 2007 Nov 8;450(7167):289-93. doi: 10.1038/nature06328. Epub 2007 Oct 17.


The CD36 family of transmembrane receptors is present across metazoans and has been implicated biochemically in lipid binding and transport. Several CD36 proteins function in the immune system as scavenger receptors for bacterial pathogens and seem to act as cofactors for Toll-like receptors by facilitating recognition of bacterially derived lipids. Here we show that a Drosophila melanogaster CD36 homologue, Sensory neuron membrane protein (SNMP), is expressed in a population of olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs) implicated in pheromone detection. SNMP is essential for the electrophysiological responses of OSNs expressing the receptor OR67d to (Z)-11-octadecenyl acetate (cis-vaccenyl acetate, cVA), a volatile male-specific fatty-acid-derived pheromone that regulates sexual and social aggregation behaviours. SNMP is also required for the activation of the moth pheromone receptor HR13 by its lipid-derived pheromone ligand (Z)-11-hexadecenal, but is dispensable for the responses of the conventional odorant receptor OR22a to its short hydrocarbon fruit ester ligands. Finally, we show that SNMP is required for responses of OR67d to cVA when ectopically expressed in OSNs not normally activated by pheromones. Because mammalian CD36 binds fatty acids, we suggest that SNMP acts in concert with odorant receptors to capture pheromone molecules on the surface of olfactory dendrites. Our work identifies an unanticipated cofactor for odorant receptors that is likely to have a widespread role in insect pheromone detection. Moreover, these results define a unifying model for CD36 function, coupling recognition of lipid-based extracellular ligands to signalling receptors in both pheromonal communication and pathogen recognition through the innate immune system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetates / metabolism
  • Animals
  • CD36 Antigens / chemistry*
  • CD36 Antigens / metabolism
  • Cilia / metabolism
  • Drosophila Proteins / chemistry*
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics
  • Drosophila Proteins / metabolism*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics
  • Drosophila melanogaster / metabolism*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology
  • Electrophysiology
  • Genomics
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Male
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Neurons, Afferent / metabolism
  • Oleic Acids / metabolism
  • Pheromones / analysis
  • Pheromones / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Odorant / metabolism
  • Receptors, Pheromone / chemistry*
  • Receptors, Pheromone / genetics
  • Receptors, Pheromone / metabolism*
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal
  • Smell / physiology
  • Social Behavior


  • Acetates
  • CD36 Antigens
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Oleic Acids
  • Pheromones
  • Receptors, Odorant
  • Receptors, Pheromone
  • Snmp1 protein, Drosophila
  • cis-vaccenyl acetate

Associated data

  • GENBANK/AE014297