Navigation Links
Team discovers reason that male moths can keep finding females
Date:8/14/2012

BOZEMAN, Mont. A female moth sitting on a goal post could attract a male moth on the other end of a football field. And even if she switched her scent over time, the male could still find her because of a mutation to a single gene in his antenna.

A team of researchers led by Montana State University entomologist Kevin Wanner identified that gene after seeing how it adapted to even the slightest change in the chemicals female moths emit to attract males. The scientists explained their findings in the Aug. 13 online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Understanding the genetics behind moth communication could lead to natural ways to control pests, said Wanner, who has dual assignments in the MSU Department of Plant Sciences and Plant Pathology and MSU Extension. Scientists could someday design new scents that would make it impossible for male moths to find females of the same species. The European corn borer alone is one of the most damaging insect pests of corn throughout the United States and Canada. The losses it causes and the cost to control it is estimated at more than $1 billion each year.

In the meantime, the discovery that involved hundreds of moths, an MSU-University of Montana collaboration, and a vital piece of equipment adds to the basic understanding of insect genetics, Wanner said. One area of interest focuses on the genetic barriers that keep moths from mating outside their own species.

Scientists have studied communication between male and female moths and butterflies for more than a century. They found the first sex pheromones in moths 50 years ago. But they still know little about the molecular mechanics that make communication so specific to a species, Wanner said. In some cases, different moth species are so much alike that scientists can only tell them apart by their different pheromones.

Pheromones are the blends of chemical odors that females emit to attract males of the same species for mating. If the ratio or chemicals themselves change during the evolution of a new species, the male needs to adapt or he won't be able to find the female. How male moths adapt to pheromone changes in females has been a long-standing question.

Female moths release just nanograms a billionth of a gram -- of pheromone from a gland at the tip of their abdomen, Wanner said. He added that this amount is far too small for humans to smell, but male moths within 300 feet of the females can detect it with the sensory cells on their antennae.

The journey that led to the PNAS paper began in 2008 when Wanner came to MSU. It continued in 2009 when Jean Allen became a master's degree student in Wanner's laboratory. Allen who earned her undergraduate degree from New Mexico State University received her master's degree in December 2010 and is now a research associate in Wanner's lab.

She started her thesis work by obtaining live corn borer moths raised in colonies at Cornell University in New York, from collaborator and coauthor Charles Linn Jr., Allen said. She extracted RNA, genetic material from the male moths' antennae, to find the receptor genes that detect the female pheromone. She identified the probable receptor of interest.

Wanner then turned to Greg Leary and Michael Kavanaugh in the Center for Structural and Functional Neuroscience at the University of Montana. Since Wanner didn't have an instrument to analyze male moth receptors to see how they responded to a parade of different pheromones, the two tested the receptors with their equipment. They also made a series of mutations that were later confirmed by Allen. After Wanner was able to buy an Opus Xpress instrument, Leary helped train Allen how to use it.

After analyzing several receptors and 47 possibilities for amino acid mutations, the collaborators finally found the one that clearly provided an adaptation to the changing pheromone structure.

It was a eureka moment, according to Allen and Wanner.

"It was a lot of work," Wanner added. "We had no rational way to know which one it was."

He noted that the Opus Xpress instrument was critical for their discovery. Commonly used in pharmacology and medical research to study how different drugs interact with their target receptor, the instrument in this case allowed the researchers to study, in the lab, how the pheromone receptors in the male moth responded to different pheromone chemicals.

"Without this instrument, we would not have been able to identify the critical receptor and identify the specific mutation in that receptor that allowed it to adapt to a new pheromone structure," Wanner said.


'/>"/>

Contact: Evelyn Boswell
evelynb@montana.edu
406-994-5135
Montana State University
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Team discovers how western corn rootworm resists crop rotation
2. NUS-led research team discovers how bacteria sense salt stress
3. La Jolla Institute scientist discovers key step in immune system-fueled inflammation
4. New study discovers powerful function of single protein that controls neurotransmission
5. NOAA discovers way to detect low-level exposure to seafood toxin in marine animals
6. Study discovers genetic pathway impacting the spread of cancer cells
7. Team discovers how bacteria resist a Trojan horse antibiotic
8. Happy Fathers Day! Another reason why dads and hopeful dads should quit smoking now
9. Virgin male moths think theyre hot when theyre not
10. Got nectar? To hawkmoths, humidity is a cue
11. BGI reports the latest finding on NMNAT1 mutations linked to Leber congenital amaurosis
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:1/31/2017)...  Spero Therapeutics, LLC, a biopharmaceutical company founded ... bacterial infections, today announced it has acquired a ... Bono Bio Ltd (PBB) to bolster its pipeline ... of Gram-negative bacteria.   The assets acquired have been ... group company. "The acquisition of these ...
(Date:1/25/2017)... , Jan. 25, 2017 The Elements of ... (IAM) lifecycle is comprised of a comprehensive set ... purpose of maintaining digital identities and providing a ... applications. There are significant number of programs opted ... to time by optimizing processes and changing policies. ...
(Date:1/21/2017)... , Jan 20, 2017 Research and Markets ... Market 2017-2021" report to their offering. ... The global voice recognition biometrics market ... The report covers the present scenario and the ... To calculate the market size, the report considers the revenue generated ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:2/28/2017)... ... February 28, 2017 , ... ... antibody therapeutics from millions-diverse immune repertoires, today announced a strategic partnership with ... genetically engineered to express human antibodies. The partnership will use GigaGen technology to ...
(Date:2/28/2017)... 2017  ITL Limited ( ASX:ITD ), an ... partner that provides innovative products and solutions to ... announces its rebrand to ITL Health Group (ITL). ... of the Company,s unified global rebranding plan and ... corporate website, ITLHealthGroup.com . ITL,s new brand ...
(Date:2/28/2017)... and NEW YORK , February 28, ... Application accepted by the FDA for avelumab  Prognosis ... has metastasized   EMD ... Germany , in the US and Canada ... Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has accepted for Priority Review ...
(Date:2/27/2017)... A Europe-wide survey of institutes conducted by the Basel Declaration ... treat them with due care. The survey polled a total of ... indicates that there is a strong commitment among animal researchers across ... of the 3Rs (Refine, Reduce, Replace)  ... What are the 3Rs? Refine: ...
Breaking Biology Technology: