Conservation of indole responsive odorant receptors in mosquitoes reveals an ancient olfactory trait

Jonathan D. Bohbot, Patrick L. Jones, Guirong Wang, R. Jason Pitts, Gregory M. Pask, Laurence J. Zwiebel*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


Aedes aegypti and Anopheles gambiae are among the best-characterized mosquito species within the Culicinae and Anophelinae mosquito clades which diverged ~150 million years ago. Despite this evolutionary distance, the olfactory systems of these mosquitoes exhibit similar morphological and physiological adaptations. Paradoxically, mosquito odorant receptors, which lie at the heart of chemosensory signal transduction pathways, belong to a large and highly divergent gene family. We have used 2 heterologous expression systems to investigate the functional characteristics of a highly conserved subset of Ors between Ae. aegypti and An. gambiae to investigate whether protein homology correlates with odorant-induced activation. We find that these receptors share similar odorant response profiles and that indole, a common and ecologically relevant olfactory cue, elicits strong responses from these homologous receptors. The identification of other highly conserved members of this Or clade from mosquito species of varying phylogenetic relatedness supports a model in which high sensitivity to indole represents an ancient ecological adaptation that has been preserved as a result of its life cycle importance. These results provide an understanding of how similarities and disparities among homologous OR proteins relate to olfactory function, which can lead to greater insights into the design of successful strategies for the control of mosquito-borne diseases.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)149-160
Number of pages12
JournalChemical Senses
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 2011
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was funded by Vanderbilt University and by grants from the National Institutes of Health (AI056402) and The Foundation for the National Institutes of Health through the Grand Challenges in Global Health Initiative to L.J.Z.


  • Aedes aegypti
  • Anopheles gambiae
  • Indole
  • Mosquito
  • Odorant-receptor
  • Olfaction
  • Oviposition


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