Chemotactic effect of odorants and tastants on the ciliate Tetrahymena pyriformis

J Recept Signal Transduct Res. 2011 Dec;31(6):423-33. doi: 10.3109/10799893.2011.625428.


Naturally occurring aroma compounds are able to elicit physiological and migratory responses such as chemotaxis even at nano to femtomolar concentrations in organisms at different levels of phylogeny. Despite the amazing chemical variety of these substances the apparatus by which they can be detected i.e. the chemosensory receptors and the signaling pathways seem to be rather uniform and evolutionary well-conserved. The intracellular signaling process is supposed to be mediated by either cAMP or inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate. The present work aimed to investigate the chemotactic behavior of 11 odorants that occur naturally in foods and are also used by the industry as additives, on the eukaryotic ciliate Tetrahymena pyriformis. Intracellular signaling pathways that might be activated by these compounds were also investigated. Activation of the phospholipase C (PLC) was measured by FACS and the stimulation of inositol-1,4,5-trisphosphate 3-kinases (IP3K) was measured using two specific inhibitors, wortmannin and LY294002. The strongest chemoattractant character was observed for isoamyl acetate (10(⁻6) M), propyl isobutyrate (10(⁻8) M), isobutyl propionate (10(⁻6) M). The strongest repellent action was exerted by benzyl acetate (10(⁻8) M), furfuryl thioacetate (10(⁻12) M). Our results suggest that Tetrahymena responds in a very sensitive way to slight changes in the molecular structure. According to our study, tracer amounts of solvents do not contribute significantly to the chemotactic profile of the respective odorants. No significant activation of PLC or PI3K could be observed following stimulation with attractant odorants which implies that some other pathways may be involved, hence further investigation is needed.

MeSH terms

  • Chemotactic Factors / chemistry*
  • Chemotactic Factors / pharmacology
  • Chemotactic Factors / physiology
  • Chemotaxis / physiology*
  • Cyclic AMP / metabolism*
  • Food Additives / chemistry
  • Food Additives / pharmacology
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Inositol 1,4,5-Trisphosphate / metabolism*
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / drug effects
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / metabolism
  • Receptors, Odorant / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Tetrahymena pyriformis / drug effects
  • Tetrahymena pyriformis / metabolism
  • Tetrahymena pyriformis / physiology*
  • Type C Phospholipases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Type C Phospholipases / drug effects
  • Type C Phospholipases / metabolism*


  • Chemotactic Factors
  • Food Additives
  • Receptors, Odorant
  • Inositol 1,4,5-Trisphosphate
  • Cyclic AMP
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases
  • Type C Phospholipases