Evolution of sex-pheromone receptors in Drosophila flies

Insects use olfaction for a diversity of inter- and intra-specific communications. In that way, sex pheromone perception plays an important role in speciation, allowing the attraction of conspecific individuals and repelling individuals from different species. Recent studies on the evolution of sex pheromones within the genus Drosophila identify a high diversity of sex-specific compounds that are mainly detected via olfaction. These studies also demonstrate that to keep the efficiency of inter- and intra-specific reproductive communication systems, a rapid and independent evolution of the sex pheromones and their associated olfactory channels is necessary. Using the transgenic expression of olfactory receptors with the empty neuron system in D. melanogaster, and the posterior measurement of electrophysiological responses through single sensillum recordings to previously identified sex pheromones, we are investigating how pheromone receptors coevolve to match the high diversity of sexual pheromones. We would also like to identify potential hotspots in the receptors undergoing rapid evolution.

Doctoral Researcher: Melissa Diaz-Morales (MPI-CE)

Supervision: Dr. Markus Knaden (MPI-CE), Dr. Martin Andersson (LU), and Dr. Bill S. Hansson (MPI-CE).  


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