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A novel lineage of candidate pheromone receptors for sex communication in moths

By Lucie Bastin-Héline, Arthur de Fouchier, Song Cao, Fotini Koutroumpa, Gabriela Caballero-Vidal, Stefania Robakiewicz, Christelle Monsempes, Marie-Christine François, Tatiana Ribeyre, Anne de Cian, William B. Walker, Guirong Wang, Emmanuelle Joly, Nicolas Montagné

Posted 20 Jul 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/707174 (published DOI: 10.7554/eLife.49826)

Sex pheromone receptors (PRs) are key players in chemical communication between mating partners in insects. In the highly diversified insect order Lepidoptera, male PRs tuned to female-emitted type I pheromones (which make up the vast majority of pheromones identified) form a dedicated subfamily of odorant receptors (ORs). Here, using a combination of heterologous expression and in vivo genome editing methods, we bring functional evidence that at least one moth PR does not belong to this subfamily but to a distantly related OR lineage. This PR, identified in the cotton leafworm Spodoptera littoralis, is over-expressed in male antennae and is specifically tuned to the major sex pheromone component emitted by females. Together with a comprehensive phylogenetic analysis of moth ORs, our functional data suggest two independent apparitions of PRs tuned to type I pheromones in Lepidoptera, opening up a new path for studying the evolution of moth pheromone communication.

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