Task-dependent Orchestration of Insect Olfactory Sensory Neuron Performance

Robert Kittel - Universität Leipzig
Dieter Wicher - MPI for Chemical Ecology, Jena

Sensory systems have to provide an appropriate representation of the environment. What is appropriate depends on the meaning of a signal for the organism. The current project focusses on the tuning of insect odorant receptors. Olfactory sensory neurons expressing the receptor Or56a which detects the alarm odor geosmin, a product of toxin producing microbes, are permanently tuned to highest sensitivity. By contrast, cells expressing the food odor-detecting Or22a are set to moderate sensitivity under resting conditions but can be sensitized on demand. The aim of this project is to investigate how these different properties in sensory neuron performance are realized and manifested at various levels, such as odorant receptor expression density, downstream signal processing and amplification within the compartments of the receptor neuron. The comparative approach will target the olfactory signaling chain of Or22a and Or56a expressing olfactory sensory neurons at the various levels. To this end, we will apply calcium imaging, super resolution fluorescence microscopy, and the electrophysiological patch clamp technique.