Insect Pheromone Receptors - Key Elements in Sensing Intraspecific Chemical Signals. uri icon


  • Pheromones are chemicals that serve intraspecific communication. In animals, the ability to detect and discriminate pheromones in a complex chemical environment substantially contributes to the survival of the species. Insects widely use pheromones to attract mating partners, to alarm conspecifics or to mark paths to rich food sources. The various functional roles of pheromones for insects are reflected by the chemical diversity of pheromonal compounds. The precise detection of the relevant intraspecific signals is accomplished by specialized chemosensory neurons housed in hair-like sensilla located on the surface of body appendages. Current data indicate that the extraordinary sensitivity and selectivity of the pheromone-responsive neurons (PRNs) is largely based on specific pheromone receptors (PRs) residing in their ciliary membrane. Besides these key elements, proper ligand-induced responses of PR-expressing neurons appear to generally require a putative co-receptor, the so-called "sensory neuron membrane protein 1" (SNMP1). Regarding the PR-mediated chemo-electrical signal transduction processes in insect PRNs, ionotropic as well as metabotropic mechanisms may be involved. In this review, we summarize and discuss current knowledge on the peripheral detection of pheromones in the olfactory system of insects with a focus on PRs and their specific role in the recognition and transduction of volatile intraspecific chemical signals.

publication date

  • 2018