Editors' ChoiceOlfaction

It Takes Two to Sense CO2

Science's STKE  09 Jan 2007:
Vol. 2007, Issue 368, pp. tw8
DOI: 10.1126/stke.3682007tw8

Many insects detect CO2, thereby obtaining critical information about their environment; bloodsucking insects like mosquitoes, for instance, follow CO2 trails to locate potential hosts. Drosophila detect CO2 through a subset of olfactory sensory neurons that do not express odorant family receptors (known to sense other volatile chemicals) but do express Gr21a, which is classified as belonging to the gustatory receptor family (see Wilson). Jones et al. showed that a second gustatory receptor gene, Gr63a, was coexpressed with Gr21a in CO2-sensing neurons in both adult and larval Drosophila. Moreover, the mosquito homologs of Gr21a and Gr63a were coexpressed in a subset of neurons in the mosquito organ through which CO2 ­­is sensed. When Gr21a and Gr63a were coexpressed in neurons that are normally unresponsive to CO2, these neurons became responsive, although neither receptor alone was sufficient to confer CO2 sensitivity. Furthermore, mutant flies lacking Gr63a were insensitive to CO2, as determined both behaviorally and through electrophysiological recordings. Thus, the authors conclude that coexpression of Gr21a and Gr63a is required for CO2 detection in Drosophila, a finding that may have implications for the development of repellants against blood-feeding insects.

W. D. Jones, P. Cayirlioglu, I. Grunwald Kadow, L. B. Vosshall, Two chemosensory receptors together mediate carbon dioxide detection in Drosophila. Nature 445, 86-90 (2007).[PubMed]

R. I. Wilson, Scent secrets of insects. Nature 445, 30-31 (2007). [PubMed]