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Sequence Comparisons of Odorant Receptors among Tortricid Moths Reveal Different Rates of Molecular Evolution among Family Members

Public Library of Science
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0038391
  • Research Article
  • Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Proteins
  • Protein Interactions
  • Protein Structure
  • Biomacromolecule-Ligand Interactions
  • Biophysics
  • Computational Biology
  • Macromolecular Structure Analysis
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Evolutionary Genetics
  • Molecular Cell Biology
  • Signal Transduction
  • Membrane Receptor Signaling
  • Neuroscience
  • Sensory Systems
  • Olfactory System
  • Zoology
  • Entomology
  • Physics
  • Biology


In insects, odorant receptors detect volatile cues involved in behaviours such as mate recognition, food location and oviposition. We have investigated the evolution of three odorant receptors from five species within the moth genera Ctenopseustis and Planotrotrix, family Tortricidae, which fall into distinct clades within the odorant receptor multigene family. One receptor is the orthologue of the co-receptor Or83b, now known as Orco (OR2), and encodes the obligate ion channel subunit of the receptor complex. In comparison, the other two receptors, OR1 and OR3, are ligand-binding receptor subunits, activated by volatile compounds produced by plants - methyl salicylate and citral, respectively. Rates of sequence evolution at non-synonymous sites were significantly higher in OR1 compared with OR2 and OR3. Within the dataset OR1 contains 109 variable amino acid positions that are distributed evenly across the entire protein including transmembrane helices, loop regions and termini, while OR2 and OR3 contain 18 and 16 variable sites, respectively. OR2 shows a high level of amino acid conservation as expected due to its essential role in odour detection; however we found unexpected differences in the rate of evolution between two ligand-binding odorant receptors, OR1 and OR3. OR3 shows high sequence conservation suggestive of a conserved role in odour reception, whereas the higher rate of evolution observed in OR1, particularly at non-synonymous sites, may be suggestive of relaxed constraint, perhaps associated with the loss of an ancestral role in sex pheromone reception.

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