Search. Read. Cite.

Easy to search. Easy to read. Easy to cite with credible sources.

Journal of Experimental Biology

Year: 2009  |  Volume: 212  |  Issue: 13  |  Page No.: 1973 - 1979

Smelling the difference: controversial ideas in insect olfaction

M Pellegrino and T. Nakagawa


Maurizio Pellegrino and Takao Nakagawa

In animals, the sense of smell is often used as a powerful way to attract potential mates, to find food and to explore the environment. Different animals evolved different systems to detect volatile odorants, tuned to the specific needs of each species. Vertebrates and nematodes have been used extensively as models to study the mechanisms of olfaction: the molecular players are olfactory receptors (ORs) expressed in olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs) where they bind to volatile chemicals, acting as the first relay of olfactory processing. These receptors belong to the G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) superfamily; binding to odorants induces the production and amplification of second messengers, which lead to the depolarization of the neuron. The anatomical features of the insect olfactory circuit are similar to those of mammals, and until recently it was thought that this similarity extended to the ORs, which were originally annotated as GPCRs. Surprisingly, recent evidence shows that insect ORs can act like ligand-gated ion channels, either completely or partially bypassing...

View Fulltext