Recent Insights into Insect Olfactory Receptors and Odorant-Binding Proteins

Tal Soo Ha, Dean P. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Human and insect olfaction share many general features, but insects differ from mammalian systems in important ways. Mammalian olfactory neurons share the same overlying fluid layer in the nose, and neuronal tuning entirely depends upon receptor specificity. In insects, the olfactory neurons are anatomically segregated into sensilla, and small clusters of olfactory neurons dendrites share extracellular fluid that can be independently regulated in different sensilla. Small extracellular proteins called odorant-binding proteins are differentially secreted into this sensillum lymph fluid where they have been shown to confer sensitivity to specific odorants, and they can also affect the kinetics of the olfactory neuron responses. Insect olfactory receptors are not G-protein-coupled receptors, such as vertebrate olfactory receptors, but are ligand-gated ion channels opened by direct interactions with odorant molecules. Recently, several examples of insect olfactory neurons expressing multiple receptors have been identified, indicating that the mechanisms for neuronal tuning may be broader in insects than mammals. Finally, recent advances in genome editing are finding applications in many species, including agricultural pests and human disease vectors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number926
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2022


  • disease vector
  • odorant receptors
  • odorant-binding proteins
  • olfaction
  • olfactory neurons

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Insect Science


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