The antennal lobe (AL) of insects, like the olfactory bulb of vertebrates, is characterized by discrete modules of synaptic neuropil called glomeruli. In some insects (e.g., moths and cockroaches), a few glomeruli are sexually dimorphic and function in labeled lines for processing of sensory information about sex pheromones. Controversy still exists, however, about whether projection (output) neurons (PNs) of glomeruli in the main AL are also narrowly tuned. We examined this critical issue in the AL of the moth Manduca sexta. We used intracellular recording and staining techniques to investigate the chemosensory tuning of PNs innervating an identifiable, sexually isomorphic glomerulus, G35, in the main AL. We found that the morphological features and chemosensory tuning of G35-PNs were nearly identical in females and males. G35-PNs responded to low concentrations of the plant-derived volatile compound cis-3-hexenyl acetate (c3HA), but the sensitivity threshold of female PNs was lower than that of male PNs. The propionate andbutyrate homologs of c3HA could evoke excitatory responses but only at moderate-to-high concentrations. Other plant volatiles did not evoke responses from G35-PNs. Moreover, PNs innervating glomeruli near G35 (in females) showed little or no response to c3HA. Female G35-PNs were hyperpolarized by (±)linalool, a compound that excites PNs in an adjacent glomerulus, thus providing evidence for lateral-inhibitory interactions between glomeruli. Our results show that PNs arborizing in an identified glomerulus in the main olfactory pathway are morphologically and physiologically equivalent in both sexes and have characteristic, limited molecular receptive ranges that are highly conserved across individuals.
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