Differential Odour Coding of Isotopomers in the Honeybee Brain

Sci Rep. 2016 Feb 22:6:21893. doi: 10.1038/srep21893.


The shape recognition model of olfaction maintains that odorant reception probes physicochemical properties such as size, shape, electric charge, and hydrophobicity of the ligand. Recently, insects were shown to distinguish common from deuterated isotopomers of the same odorant, suggesting the involvement of other molecular properties to odorant reception. Via two-photon functional microscopy we investigated how common and deuterated isoforms of natural odorants are coded within the honeybee brain. Our results provide evidence that (i) different isotopomers generate different neuronal activation maps, (ii) isotopomer sensitivity is a general mechanism common to multiple odorant receptors, and (iii) isotopomer specificity is highly consistent across individuals. This indicates that honeybee's olfactory system discriminates between isotopomers of the same odorant, suggesting that other features, such as molecular vibrations, may contribute to odour signal transduction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bees / anatomy & histology
  • Bees / metabolism*
  • Benzaldehydes / pharmacology
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Deuterium / pharmacology
  • Insect Proteins / agonists
  • Insect Proteins / metabolism*
  • Octanols / pharmacology
  • Odorants
  • Receptors, Odorant / agonists
  • Receptors, Odorant / metabolism*
  • Smell*


  • Benzaldehydes
  • Insect Proteins
  • Octanols
  • Receptors, Odorant
  • Deuterium
  • benzaldehyde