Synchronous evolution of an odor biosynthesis pathway and behavioral response.
ABSTRACT: Rodents use olfactory cues for species-specific behaviors. For example, mice emit odors to attract mates of the same species, but not competitors of closely related species. This implies rapid evolution of olfactory signaling, although odors and chemosensory receptors involved are unknown.Here, we identify a mouse chemosignal, trimethylamine, and its olfactory receptor, trace amine-associated receptor 5 (TAAR5), to be involved in species-specific social communication. Abundant (>1,000-fold increased) and sex-dependent trimethylamine production arose de novo along the Mus lineage after divergence from Mus caroli. The two-step trimethylamine biosynthesis pathway involves synergy between commensal microflora and a sex-dependent liver enzyme, flavin-containing monooxygenase 3 (FMO3), which oxidizes trimethylamine. One key evolutionary alteration in this pathway is the recent acquisition in Mus of male-specific Fmo3 gene repression. Coincident with its evolving biosynthesis, trimethylamine evokes species-specific behaviors, attracting mice, but repelling rats. Attraction to trimethylamine is abolished in TAAR5 knockout mice, and furthermore, attraction to mouse scent is impaired by enzymatic depletion of trimethylamine or TAAR5 knockout.TAAR5 is an evolutionarily conserved olfactory receptor required for a species-specific behavior. Synchronized changes in odor biosynthesis pathways and odor-evoked behaviors could ensure species-appropriate social interactions.
Project description:Trace amine-associated receptors (TAARs) are a class of G-protein-coupled receptors found in mammals. While TAAR1 is expressed in several brain regions, all the other TAARs have been described mainly in the olfactory epithelium and the glomerular layer of the olfactory bulb and are believed to serve as a new class of olfactory receptors sensing innate odors. However, there is evidence that TAAR5 could play a role also in the central nervous system. In this study, we characterized a mouse line lacking TAAR5 (TAAR5 knockout, TAAR5-KO) expressing beta-galactosidase mapping TAAR5 expression. We found that TAAR5 is expressed not only in the glomerular layer in the olfactory bulb but also in deeper layers projecting to the limbic brain olfactory circuitry with prominent expression in numerous limbic brain regions, such as the anterior olfactory nucleus, the olfactory tubercle, the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), the amygdala, the hippocampus, the piriform cortex, the entorhinal cortex, the nucleus accumbens, and the thalamic and hypothalamic nuclei. TAAR5-KO mice did not show gross developmental abnormalities but demonstrated less anxiety- and depressive-like behavior in several behavioral tests. TAAR5-KO mice also showed significant decreases in the tissue levels of serotonin and its metabolite in several brain areas and were more sensitive to the hypothermic action of serotonin 5-HT1A receptor agonist 8-hydroxy-2-(di-n-propilamino)tetralin (8-OH-DPAT). These observations indicate that TAAR5 is not just innate odor-sensing olfactory receptor but also serves to provide olfactory input into limbic brain areas to regulate emotional behaviors likely via modulation of the serotonin system. Thus, anxiolytic and/or antidepressant action of future TAAR5 antagonists could be predicted. In general, "olfactory" TAAR-mediated brain circuitry may represent a previously unappreciated neurotransmitter system involved in the transmission of innate odors into emotional behavioral responses.
Project description:Inhibitory response occurs throughout the nervous system, including the peripheral olfactory system. While odor-evoked excitation in peripheral olfactory cells is known to encode odor information, the molecular mechanism and functional roles of odor-evoked inhibition remain largely unknown. Here, we examined Drosophila olfactory sensory neurons and found that inhibitory odors triggered outward receptor currents by reducing the constitutive activities of odorant receptors, inhibiting the basal spike firing in olfactory sensory neurons. Remarkably, this odor-evoked inhibition of olfactory sensory neurons elicited by itself a full range of olfactory behaviors from attraction to avoidance, as did odor-evoked olfactory sensory neuron excitation. These results indicated that peripheral inhibition is comparable to excitation in encoding sensory signals rather than merely regulating excitation. Furthermore, we demonstrated that a bidirectional code with both odor-evoked inhibition and excitation in single olfactory sensory neurons increases the odor-coding capacity, providing a means of efficient sensory encoding.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>Odor-driven behaviors such as feeding, mating, and predator avoidance are crucial for animal survival. The neural pathways processing these behaviors have been well characterized in a number of species, and involve the activity of diverse brain regions following stimulation of the olfactory bulb by specific odors. However, while the zebrafish olfactory circuitry is well understood, a comprehensive characterization linking odor-driven behaviors to specific odors is needed to better relate olfactory computations to animal responses.<h4>Results</h4>Here, we used a medium-throughput setup to measure the swimming trajectories of 10 zebrafish in response to 17 ecologically relevant odors. By selecting appropriate locomotor metrics, we constructed ethograms systematically describing odor-induced changes in the swimming trajectory. We found that adult zebrafish reacted to most odorants using different behavioral programs and that a combination of a few relevant behavioral metrics enabled us to capture most of the variance in these innate odor responses. We observed that individual components of natural food and alarm odors do not elicit the full behavioral response. Finally, we show that zebrafish blood elicits prominent defensive behaviors similar to those evoked by skin extract and activates spatially overlapping olfactory bulb domains.<h4>Conclusion</h4>Altogether, our results highlight a prominent intra- and inter-individual variability in zebrafish odor-driven behaviors and identify a small set of waterborne odors that elicit robust responses. Our behavioral setup and our results will be useful resources for future studies interested in characterizing innate olfactory behaviors in aquatic animals.
Project description:Innate chemosensory preferences are often encoded by sensory neurons that are specialized for attractive or avoidance behaviors. Here, we show that one olfactory neuron in Caenorhabditis elegans, AWC(ON), has the potential to direct both attraction and repulsion. Attraction, the typical AWC(ON) behavior, requires a receptor-like guanylate cyclase GCY-28 that acts in adults and localizes to AWC(ON) axons. gcy-28 mutants avoid AWC(ON)-sensed odors; they have normal odor-evoked calcium responses in AWC(ON) but reversed turning biases in odor gradients. In addition to gcy-28, a diacylglycerol/protein kinase C pathway that regulates neurotransmission switches AWC(ON) odor preferences. A behavioral switch in AWC(ON) may be part of normal olfactory plasticity, as odor conditioning can induce odor avoidance in wild-type animals. Genetic interactions, acute rescue, and calcium imaging suggest that the behavioral reversal results from presynaptic changes in AWC(ON). These results suggest that alternative modes of neurotransmission can couple one sensory neuron to opposite behavioral outputs.
Project description:Cat odors induce rapid, innate and stereotyped defensive behaviors in rats at first exposure, a presumed response to the evolutionary pressures of predation. Bizarrely, rats infected with the brain parasite Toxoplasma gondii approach the cat odors they typically avoid. Since the protozoan Toxoplasma requires the cat to sexually reproduce, this change in host behavior is thought to be a remarkable example of a parasite manipulating a mammalian host for its own benefit. Toxoplasma does not influence host response to non-feline predator odor nor does it alter behavior on olfactory, social, fear or anxiety tests, arguing for specific manipulation in the processing of cat odor. We report that Toxoplasma infection alters neural activity in limbic brain areas necessary for innate defensive behavior in response to cat odor. Moreover, Toxoplasma increases activity in nearby limbic regions of sexual attraction when the rat is exposed to cat urine, compelling evidence that Toxoplasma overwhelms the innate fear response by causing, in its stead, a type of sexual attraction to the normally aversive cat odor.
Project description:In mice, trace amine-associated receptors (TAARs) are interspersed in the olfactory epithelium and constitute a chemosensory subsystem that is highly specific for detecting volatile amines. Humans possess six putative functional TAAR genes. Human TAAR5 (hTAAR5) is highly expressed in the olfactory mucosa and was shown to be specifically activated by trimethylamine. In this study, we were challenged to uncover an effective blocker substance for trimethylamine-induced hTAAR5 activation. To monitor blocking effects, we recombinantly expressed hTAAR5 and employed a commonly used Cre-luciferase reporter gene assay. Among all tested potential blocker substances, Timberol®, an amber-woody fragrance, is able to inhibit the trimethylamine-induced hTAAR5 activation up to 96%. Moreover, human psychophysical data showed that the presence of Timberol® increases the olfactory detection threshold for the characteristic fishy odor of trimethylamine by almost one order of magnitude. In conclusion, our results show that among tested receptors Timberol® is a specific and potent antagonist for the hTAAR5-mediated response to trimethylamine in a heterologous system. Furthermore, our data concerning the observed shift of the olfactory detection threshold in vivo implicate that hTAAR5 or other receptors that may be inhibited by Timberol® could be involved in the high affinity olfactory perception of trimethylamine in humans.
Project description:The rules by which odor receptors encode odors and allow behavior are still largely unexplored. Although large data sets of electrophysiological responses of receptors to odors have been generated, few hypotheses have been tested with behavioral assays. We use a data set on odor responses of Drosophila larval odor receptors coupled with chemotaxis behavioral assays to examine rules of odor coding. Using mutants of odor receptors, we have found that odor receptors with similar electrophysiological responses to odors across concentrations play non-redundant roles in odor coding at specific odor concentrations. We have also found that high affinity receptors for odors determine behavioral response thresholds, but the rules for determining peak behavioral responses are more complex. While receptor mutants typically show loss of attraction to odors, some receptor mutants result in increased attraction at specific odor concentrations. The odor receptor mutants were rescued using transgenic expression of odor receptors, validating assignment of phenotypes to the alleles. Vapor pressures alone cannot fully explain behavior in our assay. Finally, some odors that did not elicit strong electrophysiological responses are associated with behavioral phenotypes upon examination of odor receptor mutants. This result is consistent with the role of sensory neurons in lateral inhibition via local interneurons in the antennal lobe. Taken together, our results suggest a complexity of odor coding rules even in a simple olfactory sensory system.
Project description:Background: Parasitic wasps (parasitoids) use volatile organic compounds released by herbivore-infested plants to locate their hosts. Response of parasitoids to plant odors may be plastic and dependent on their physiological state. Using Microplitis croceipes (Hymenoptera: Braconidae), a relatively specialized larval endoparasitoid of Heliothis virescens (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae), we asked whether age and mating status of parasitoids affect their olfactory response to host-related odors. Methods: Four odor stimuli of varying complexity were selected based on previous reports of parasitoid response to cotton volatiles: cis-3-hexenol (a green leaf volatile), ?-pinene (a constitutive monoterpene), a 50/50 v/v binary mixture ( cis-3-hexenol + ?-pinene), and H. virescens-infested cotton odors. Female M. croceipes used in Y-tube olfactometer bioassays were either mated or unmated, and grouped 1-3, 4-6, and 7-9 d-old. Female parasitoids used in electroantennogram (EAG) recording were mated and grouped 1-3, 4-6, 7-9 and 10-12 d-old. Results: In Y-tube olfactometer bioassays, neither age nor mating status played a major role in the attraction of parasitoids to test odor stimuli, with two exceptions: 4-6 d-old mated parasitoids showed attraction to the binary mixture, and 1-3 d-old mated parasitoids showed attraction to H. virescens-infested cotton. Age did not affect EAG response of parasitoids to test stimuli. Conclusions: The present results suggest that age and mating status do not play a major role in modulating olfactory responses of M. croceipes to host-related plant odors. Instead, plasticity of olfactory response may be limited in M. croceipes due to strong innate sensitivity to host-related odor cues.
Project description:Critical animal behaviors, especially among rodents, are guided by odors in remarkably well-coordinated manners, yet many extramodal sensory cues compete for cognitive resources in these ecological contexts. That rodents can engage in such odor-guided behaviors suggests that they can selectively attend to odors. Indeed, higher-order cognitive processes-such as learning, memory, decision making, and action selection-rely on the proper filtering of sensory cues based on their relative salience. We developed a behavioral paradigm to reveal that rats are capable of selectively attending to odors in the presence of competing extramodal stimuli. We found that this selective attention facilitates accurate odor-guided decisions, which become further strengthened with experience. Further, we uncovered that selective attention to odors adaptively sharpens their representation among neurons in the olfactory tubercle, an olfactory cortex region of the ventral striatum that is considered integral for evaluating sensory information in the context of motivated behaviors. Odor-directed selective attention exerts influences during moments of heightened odor anticipation and enhances odorant representation by increasing stimulus contrast in a signal-to-noise-type coding scheme. Together, these results reveal that rats engage selective attention to optimize olfactory outcomes. Further, our finding of attention-dependent coding in the olfactory tubercle challenges the notion that a thalamic relay is integral for the attentional control of sensory coding.
Project description:Female mosquitoes that transmit deadly diseases locate human hosts by detecting exhaled CO2 and skin odor. The identities of olfactory neurons and receptors required for attraction to skin odor remain a mystery. Here, we show that the CO2-sensitive olfactory neuron is also a sensitive detector of human skin odorants in both Aedes aegypti and Anopheles gambiae. We demonstrate that activity of this neuron is important for attraction to skin odor, establishing it as a key target for intervention. We screen ~0.5 million compounds in silico and identify several CO2 receptor ligands, including an antagonist that reduces attraction to skin and an agonist that lures mosquitoes to traps as effectively as CO2. Analysis of the CO2 receptor ligand space provides a foundation for understanding mosquito host-seeking behavior and identifies odors that are potentially safe, pleasant, and affordable for use in a new generation of mosquito control strategies worldwide.