Elements of olfactory reception in adult Drosophila melanogaster

Anat Rec (Hoboken). 2013 Sep;296(9):1477-88. doi: 10.1002/ar.22747. Epub 2013 Jul 31.


The olfactory system of Drosophila has become an attractive and simple model to investigate olfaction because it follows the same organizational principles of vertebrates, and the results can be directly applied to other insects with economic and sanitary relevance. Here, we review the structural elements of the Drosophila olfactory reception organs at the level of the cells and molecules involved. This article is intended to reflect the structural basis underlying the functional variability of the detection of an olfactory universe composed of thousands of odors. At the genetic level, we further detail the genes and transcription factors (TF) that determine the structural variability. The fly's olfactory receptor organs are the third antennal segments and the maxillary palps, which are covered with sensory hairs called sensilla. These sensilla house the odorant receptor neurons (ORNs) that express one or few odorant receptors in a stereotyped pattern regulated by combinations of TF. Also, perireceptor events, such as odor molecules transport to their receptors, are carried out by odorant binding proteins. In addition, the rapid odorant inactivation to preclude saturation of the system occurs by biotransformation and detoxification enzymes. These additional events take place in the lymph that surrounds the ORNs. We include some data on ionotropic and metabotropic olfactory transduction, although this issue is still under debate in Drosophila.

Keywords: antenna; drosophila; maxillary palps; odorant binding proteins; odorant receptors; olfactory reception; olfactory receptor organs; olfactory transduction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Arthropod Antennae / innervation*
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics
  • Drosophila Proteins / metabolism*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / anatomy & histology
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics
  • Drosophila melanogaster / metabolism*
  • Lymph / metabolism
  • Odorants*
  • Olfactory Pathways / metabolism*
  • Olfactory Receptor Neurons / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Odorant / genetics
  • Receptors, Odorant / metabolism*
  • Sensilla / innervation*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Smell* / genetics


  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Receptors, Odorant