This is a collaboration with Dr. Robert Anholt.
Chemosensory neurons in insects are separated in small groups distributed within porous sensilla. Olfactory neurons within each sensillum are bathed in lymph that contains odorant binding proteins (OBPs) and a specialized subset of pheromone binding proteins (PBPs). OBPs and PBPs presumably serve as carrier proteins for their hydrophobic ligands in the sensillar lymph and, hence, may contribute to discrimination among odorants. To gain insights into the molecular mechanisms of pheromone signaling in insects, we turned to the brownbanded (Supella longipalpa) and the German cockroaches (Blattella germanica), which provide several advantages:
- Their antennae are large and readily amenable to electrophysiological, biochemical, and molecular genetic approaches.
- Both volatile and contact sex pheromones have been chemically well characterized in these cockroach species.
- Both species use pheromones with stereoisomeric configurations.