University Of Tasmania

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A screen for genes expressed in the olfactory organs of Drosophila melanogaster identifies genes involved in olfactory behaviour

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-20, 02:39 authored by Tunstall, NE, Herr, A, de Bruyne, M, Coral WarrCoral Warr

Background: For insects the sense of smell and associated olfactory-driven behaviours are essential for survival. Insects detect odorants with families of olfactory receptor proteins that are very different to those of mammals, and there are likely to be other unique genes and genetic pathways involved in the function and development of the insect olfactory system.

Methodology/Principal Findings: We have performed a genetic screen of a set of 505 Drosophila melanogaster gene trap insertion lines to identify novel genes expressed in the adult olfactory organs. We identified 16 lines with expression in the olfactory organs, many of which exhibited expression of the trapped genes in olfactory receptor neurons. Phenotypic analysis showed that six of the lines have decreased olfactory responses in a behavioural assay, and for one of these we showed that precise excision of the P element reverts the phenotype to wild type, confirming a role for the trapped gene in olfaction. To confirm the identity of the genes trapped in the lines we performed molecular analysis of some of the insertion sites. While for many lines the reported insertion sites were correct, we also demonstrated that for a number of lines the reported location of the element was incorrect, and in three lines there were in fact two pGT element insertions.

Conclusions/Significance: We identified 16 new genes expressed in the Drosophila olfactory organs, the majority in neurons, and for several of the gene trap lines demonstrated a defect in olfactory-driven behaviour. Further characterisation of these genes and their roles in olfactory system function and development will increase our understanding of how the insect olfactory system has evolved to perform the same essential function to that of mammals, but using very different molecular genetic mechanisms.


Publication title

PLoS One





Article number









Tasmanian School of Medicine


Public Library of Science

Place of publication

United States

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Expanding knowledge in the biological sciences