Evolution, developmental expression and function of odorant receptors in insects

Hua Yan, Shadi Jafari, Gregory Pask, Xiaofan Zhou, Danny Reinberg, Claude Desplan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Animals rely on their chemosensory system to discriminate among a very large number of attractive or repulsive chemical cues in the environment, which is essential to respond with proper action. The olfactory sensory systems in insects share significant similarities with those of vertebrates, although they also exhibit dramatic differences, such as the molecular nature of the odorant receptors (ORs): insect ORs function as heteromeric ion channels with a common Orco subunit, unlike the G-protein-coupled olfactory receptors found in vertebrates. Remarkable progress has recently been made in understanding the evolution, development and function of insect odorant receptor neurons (ORNs). These studies have uncovered the diversity of olfactory sensory systems among insect species, including in eusocial insects that rely extensively on olfactory sensing of pheromones for social communication. However, further studies, notably functional analyses, are needed to improve our understanding of the origins of the Orco-OR system, the mechanisms of ORN fate determination, and the extraordinary diversity of behavioral responses to chemical cues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberjeb208215
JournalThe Journal of experimental biology
Issue numberPt Suppl 1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2020


  • Ant
  • Development
  • Diversity
  • Drosophila
  • Evolution
  • Odorant Receptor
  • Olfaction
  • Orco
  • Insecta/genetics
  • Insect Proteins/genetics
  • Pheromones
  • Smell
  • Animals
  • Receptors, Odorant/genetics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Insect Science
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Physiology


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