Insect repellents: Modulators of mosquito odorant receptor activity

Jonathan D. Bohbot, Joseph C. Dickens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

109 Scopus citations


Background: DEET, 2-undecanone (2-U), IR3535 and Picaridin are widely used as insect repellents to prevent interactions between humans and many arthropods including mosquitoes. Their molecular action has only recently been studied, yielding seemingly contradictory theories including odorant-dependent inhibitory and odorant-independent excitatory activities on insect olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs) and odorant receptor proteins (ORs). Methodology/Principal Findings: Here we characterize the action of these repellents on two Aedes aegypti ORs, AaOR2 and AaOR8, individually co-expressed with the common co-receptor AaOR7 in Xenopus oocytes; these ORs are respectively activated by the odors indole (AaOR2) and (R)-(2)-1-octen3-ol (AaOR8), odorants used to locate oviposition sites and host animals. In the absence of odorants, DEET activates AaOR2 but not AaOR8, while 2-U activates AaOR8 but not AaOR2; IR3535 and Picaridin do not activate these ORs. In the presence of odors, DEET strongly inhibits AaOR8 but not AaOR2, while 2-U strongly inhibits AaOR2 but not AaOR8; IR3535 and Picaridin strongly inhibit both ORs. Conclusions/Significance: These data demonstrate that repellents can act as olfactory agonists or antagonists, thus modulating OR activity, bringing concordance to conflicting models.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numbere12138
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes


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