Discrimination between Enantiomers of Linalool by Olfactory Receptor Neurons in the Cabbage Moth Mamestra brassicae (L.)

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Plants emit complex blends of volatiles, including chiral compounds that might be detected by vertebrates and invertebrates. Insects are ideal model organisms for studying the underlying receptor neuron mechanisms involved in olfactory discrimination of enantiomers. In the present study, we have employed two-column gas chromatography linked to recordings from single olfactory receptor neurons of Mamestra brassicae, in which separation of volatiles in a polar and a chiral column was performed. We here present the response properties of olfactory receptor neurons tuned to linalool. The narrow tuning of these receptor neurons was demonstrated by their strong responses to (R)-(−)-linalool, the weaker responses to the (+)-enantiomer as well as a few structurally related compounds, and no responses to the other numerous plant released volatiles. The enantioselectivity was verified by parallel dose-response curves, that of (R)-(−)-linalool shifted 1 log unit to the left of the (S)-(+)-linalool curve. A complete overlap of the temporal response pattern was found when comparing the responses of the same strength. Analysis of the spike amplitude and waveform indicated that the responses to the two enantiomers originated from the same neuron.

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