Project

Back to overview

Molecular and neural mechanisms of intra- and interspecific communication

English title Molecular and neural mechanisms of intra- and interspecific communication
Applicant Benton Richard
Number 140869
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Center for Integrative Genomics (CIG) Faculté de biologie et de médecine Université de Lausanne
Institution of higher education University of Lausanne - LA
Main discipline Neurophysiology and Brain Research
Start/End 01.04.2012 - 31.07.2016
Approved amount 624'000.00
Show all

All Disciplines (4)

Discipline
Neurophysiology and Brain Research
Molecular Biology
Genetics
Cellular Biology, Cytology

Keywords (8)

neuron; predator; pheromone; receptor; olfaction; insect; Drosophila; behaviour

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
Lay summary

Communication within and between most animal species relies heavily on chemical signals. These cues form an expansive and versatile language that can act at diverse spatial and temporal scales to permit detection of kin, mates, competitors, prey and predators. Understanding the molecular and neuronal basis of intra- and interspecies chemical communication and the adaptive behavioural responses this evokes is a fundamental problem in neuroscience. The fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, provides a powerful model to address these issues, as this animal displays a sophisticated chemosensory-driven behavioural repertoire under the control of a nervous system that is numerically relatively simple and accessible to precise genetic intervention and physiological analysis. This proposal has two distinct subprojects. In the first, we address the molecular mechanisms of pheromone detection. We and others have previously characterised a set of proteins, including the olfactory receptor OR67d, the CD36-related transmembrane protein SNMP, and the extracellular Odorant Binding Protein, LUSH, which are each required for detection of the fatty acid-derived Drosophila sex pheromone cis vaccenyl acetate (cVA). Through biochemical, molecular genetic and electrophysiological analyses, we will determine how these proteins function together to form a molecular pathway of high sensitivity and specificity for cVA. The results will be of general significance for our appreciation of insect pheromone recognition, CD36 protein function, and multi-layered signal transduction mechanisms. In the second project, we initiate a new line of research to study the molecular and neural mechanisms underlying predator detection by the Drosophila chemosensory systems. While numerous predator-prey interactions have been described in nature, few specific predator-derived chemical cues have been identified, and the sensory mechanisms by which these are detected are almost completely unknown. We have shown that ants are efficient predators on Drosophila and will use high-resolution assays to characterise short- and long-term behavioural responses of fruit flies to ants, genetically manipulate Drosophila prey to define the chemosensory system(s) and neuron(s) necessary and sufficient for these behaviours, and biochemically identify physiologically- and behaviourally-active predator-derived kairomones that act through these sensory pathways. Together, these experiments will provide novel, ecologically relevant perspectives into the function of this insect’s chemosensory system and establish a foundation for future genetic dissection of the neurobiology, ecology and evolution of this fundamental type of interspecific interaction. Beyond their respective contributions to basic problems in sensory neuroscience, chemical ecology and animal behaviour, the results of both of these projects have potentially important applications in the rationale design of new strategies for the control of chemosensory-driven behaviours of insect vectors of diseases and agricultural pests.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
A CD36 ectodomain mediates insect pheromone detection via a putative tunnelling mechanism
Gomez-Diaz Carolina, Bargeton Benoîte, Abuin Liliane, Bukar Natalia, Reina Jaime H., Bartoi Tudor, Graf Marion, Ong Huy, Ulbrich Maximilian H., Masson Jean-Francois, Benton Richard (2016), A CD36 ectodomain mediates insect pheromone detection via a putative tunnelling mechanism, in Nature Communications, 7, 11866.
Ir40a neurons are not DEET detectors
Silbering Ana F., Bell Rati, Munch Daniel, Cruchet Steeve, Gomez-Diaz Carolina, Laudes Thomas, Galizia C. Giovanni, Benton Richard (2016), Ir40a neurons are not DEET detectors, in Nature, 534, E5-E7.
Ligands for pheromone-sensing neurons are not conformationally-activated odorant binding proteins
Gomez-Diaz Carolina, Reina Jaime H., Cambillaud Christian, Benton Richard (2013), Ligands for pheromone-sensing neurons are not conformationally-activated odorant binding proteins, in PLOS Biology, e1001546.
The joy of sex pheromones
Gomez-Diaz Carolina, Benton Richard (2013), The joy of sex pheromones, in EMBO Reports, 14(10), 874.

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Invited Seminar, University of Konstanz Individual talk In vivo molecular dissection of pheromone transduction in Drosophila 07.08.2014 Konstanz, Germany Gomez Diaz Carolina;
IUSSI Talk given at a conference Ant Colony Development and Transfer of Juvenile Hormone by Trophallaxis 15.07.2014 Cairns, Australia Le Boeuf Adria;
Spanish Young Neuroscientists Symposium, Spanish Society for Neuroscience Talk given at a conference In vivo molecular dissection of pheromone transduction in Drosophila 24.09.2013 Oviedo, Asturias, Spain Gomez Diaz Carolina;
Behaviour 2013 Talk given at a conference Biochemical crowdsourcing through oral fluid exchange 04.08.2013 Newcastle Gateshead, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Le Boeuf Adria;
Janelia Farm Meeting: Sensory Signaling in Model Organisms Poster In vivo molecular dissection of pheromone transduction in Drosophila 21.04.2013 Ashburn, United States of America Gomez Diaz Carolina;
IUSSI Talk given at a conference Biochemical crowdsourcing through trophallaxis in ant colonies 27.08.2012 Montecatini Terme, Italy Le Boeuf Adria;
ISOT Talk given at a conference Biochemical crowdsourcing through oral fluid exchange in ant colonies 23.07.2012 Stockholm, Sweden Le Boeuf Adria;
IV Jornadas Olfativas, Red Olfativa Española Talk given at a conference Molecular and biochemical dissection of Drosophila SNMP in pheromone detection 10.05.2012 Asturias, Spain Gomez Diaz Carolina;


Awards

Title Year
EMBO Gold Medal 2016
National Latsis Prize (Swiss National Science Foundation) 2015
Association for Chemoreception Sciences Young Investigator Award for Research in Olfaction 2012

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
124816 Molecular and cellular analysis of a Drosophila CD36 receptor 01.04.2009 Project funding (Div. I-III)
166646 The genetic and cellular basis of olfactory pathway emergence 01.08.2016 Project funding (Div. I-III)

Abstract

Communication within and between most animal species relies heavily on chemical signals. These cues form an expansive and versatile language that can act at diverse spatial and temporal scales to permit detection of kin, mates, competitors, prey and predators. Understanding the molecular and neuronal basis of intra- and interspecies chemical communication and the adaptive behavioural responses this evokes is a fundamental problem in neuroscience. The fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, provides a powerful model to address these issues, as this animal displays a sophisticated chemosensory-driven behavioural repertoire under the control of a nervous system that is numerically relatively simple and accessible to precise genetic intervention and physiological analysis. This proposal has two distinct subprojects. In the first, we address the molecular mechanisms of pheromone detection; this is a continuation of our current studies funded by SNF grant 31003A_124816. In the second, we initiate a new line of research to study the molecular and neural mechanisms underlying predator detection by the Drosophila chemosensory systems.Project A. The molecular biology of pheromone detectionPheromones form one of the major sensory mechanisms by which animals communicate with members of their own species. These signals are often chemically distinct from other environmental chemical cues, because they derive from internal metabolic pathways, such as those for lipids or peptides. Consistently, the molecular machinery that detects pheromones also appears to be highly specialised. In previous work, we and others have characterised a set of proteins, including the olfactory receptor OR67d, the CD36-related transmembrane protein SNMP, and the extracellular Odorant Binding Protein, LUSH, which are each required for detection of the fatty acid-derived Drosophila sex pheromone cis vaccenyl acetate (cVA). How these proteins function together to form a molecular pathway of high sensitivity and specificity for cVA is unknown. We will address this problem through (1) in vivo structure-function analysis of SNMP, (2) analysis of LUSH’s contributions to cVA-evoked neuronal activity, and (3) use of a radiolabelled cVA probe to examine the protein interactions of this pheromone ligand. Together, these results will resolve several outstanding and controversial issues in the molecular mechanism of cVA detection, which will likely be of general significance for our appreciation of insect pheromone recognition, CD36 protein function, and multi-layered signal transduction mechanisms.Project B. Chemosensory detection of predatorsPredator-prey interactions represent one of the most important interspecific relationships. Chemosensory recognition of predators by prey provides a powerful means of discriminating high-risk from non-dangerous organisms and environments. While numerous predator-prey interactions have been described in nature, few specific predator-derived chemical cues have been identified, and the sensory mechanisms by which these are detected are almost completely unknown. We propose to establish Drosophila as a novel model to investigate the molecular and neuronal mechanisms of chemosensory detection of predators. We have shown that ants are efficient predators on Drosophila and will (1) use high-resolution assays to characterise short- and long-term behavioural responses of fruit flies to ants, (2) genetically manipulate Drosophila prey to define the chemosensory system(s) and neuron(s) necessary and sufficient for these behaviours, and (3) biochemically identify physiologically- and behaviourally-active predator-derived kairomones that act through these sensory pathways. Together, these experiments will provide novel, ecologically relevant perspectives into the function of this insect’s chemosensory system and establish a foundation for future genetic dissection of the neurobiology, ecology and evolution of this fundamental type of interspecific interaction. Beyond their respective contributions to basic problems in sensory neuroscience, chemical ecology and animal behaviour, the results of both of these projects have potentially important applications in the rationale design of new strategies for the control of chemosensory-driven behaviours of insect vectors of diseases and agricultural pests.
-