Pheromone Odorant Receptor Responses Reveal the Presence of a Cryptic, Redundant Sex Pheromone Component in the European Corn Borer, Ostrinia nubilalis

Kevin W. Wanner, Kevin Moore, Jianrong Wei, Brent C. Herdlicka, Charles E. Linn, Thomas C. Baker

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1 Scopus citations


Two odorant receptors (ORs), OnubOR3 and OnubOR6, in the sex pheromone communication systems of E- and Z-strain European corn borers, Ostrinia nubilalis, were broadly receptive to analogs of their pheromone components. In addition to responding to their natural 14-carbon pheromone components, (Z)-11- and (E)-11-tetradecenyl acetates (Z11- and E11-14:OAc), these pheromone ORs responded to the longer-chain compounds, (Z)-11- and (E)-11-hexadecenyl acetate (Z11- and E11-16:OAc). Z11-16:OAc is a pheromone gland constituent of E-strain O. nubilalis females in Europe but has not previously been shown to have behavioral activity to males. Here, we demonstrate that Z11-16:OAc evokes high levels of upwind flight and source location in E-strain males when substituted for Z11-14:OAc (minor component) in the E-strain blend. Since Z11-16:OAc is found in the gland and has behavioral activity when Z11-14:OAc is missing, then it should be classified as a cryptic, redundant minor pheromone component in E-strain O. nubilalis. The opposite geometric isomer, E11-16:OAc, also functions in Z-strain O. nubilalis, substituting behaviorally for the E11-14:OAc minor component, but has not been found in Z-strain female glands. Single-sensillum recordings showed that sensory neurons of E- and Z-strain male antennae expressing OnubOR3 and OnubOR6 produced responses to these hexadecenyl acetates similar to those evoked by the natural (tetradecenyl acetate) pheromone components. We postulate that the wide responsiveness of these two ORs to the 16-carbon acetates could be a preadaptation for O. nubilalis to use these compounds as minor components in lieu of the respective 14-carbon acetates. Alternatively, the responsiveness of OnubOR3 to E11-16:OAc and OnubOR6 to Z11-16:OAc could represent a vestigial state of these receptors, with the 16-carbon acetates having previously acted as functional minor components in an ancestral blend.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)567-580
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Chemical Ecology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Biochemistry


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