Male moths bearing transplanted female antennae express characteristically female behaviour and central neural activity

N. M. Kalberer, C. E. Reisenman, J. G. Hildebrand

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The primary olfactory centres of the sphinx moth Manduca sexta, the antennal lobes, contain a small number of sexually dimorphic glomeruli: the male-specific macroglomerular complex and the large female glomeruli. These glomeruli play important roles in sex-specific behaviours, such as the location of conspecific females and the selection of appropriate host plants for oviposition. The development of sexually dimorphic glomeruli depends strictly on the ingrowth of sex-specific olfactory receptor cell afférents. In the present study we tested the role of female-specific olfactory receptor cells (ORCs) in mediating femalespecific host plant approach behaviour and in determining the response of downstream antennal lobe neurons. We generated male gynandromorphs by excising one imaginai disc from a male larva and replacing it with the antennal imaginai disc from a female donor. Most male gynandromorphs had an apparently normal female antenna and a feminised antennal lobe. These gynandromorphs were tested for flight responses in a wind tunnel towards tomato plants, a preferred host plant for oviposition in M. sexta. Male gynandromorphs landed on host plants as often as normal females, demonstrating that the presence of the induced female-specific glomeruli was necessary and sufficient to produce female-like, odour-oriented behaviour, i.e. orientation towards host plants. We also characterised the physiological and morphological properties of antennal lobe neurons of male gynandromorphs. We found that projection neurons with arborisations in the induced female-specific glomeruli showed physiological responses akin to those of female-specific projection neurons in normal females. These results therefore indicate that ORCs confer specific odour tuning to their glomerular targets and, furthermore, instruct odour-specific behaviour.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1272-1280
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 15 2010


  • Behaviour
  • Development
  • Gynandromorph
  • Manduca sexta
  • Olfaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science


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