Olfactory receptors play an important role in adaptation of a species to ecological niches. Insect olfactory receptors are different in two aspects from vertebrate and other invertebrate olfactory receptors which belong to the family of G protein coupled receptors (GPCRs). First, they form dimers composed of one odour-specific protein and one ubiquitous protein forming an ion channel. Second, compared with classical GPCRs the topology of the insect receptor proteins appears to be inverted. more>>>
The neural basis of olfaction is studied from a morphological and evolutionary perspective. We are examining the olfactory systems of flies, moth, locust, ants and different crustacean species. Our key techniques are confocal, neural tracer and as well as electron microscopy (SEM, TEM) to analyze the neural circuitry involved in olfaction in the arthropod brain. more>>>
The composition of odor bouquets contains important cues to the composition of the environment. Therefore, the potentially large number of different volatiles encountered by animals has to be encoded in action potentials in the nervous system to facilitate the analysis of its chemical composition. This function is provided by proteins involved in olfactory signal transduction. more>>>
A central question of the group concerns how olfactory systems adapt to the habitat and needs of the animal. We are especially interested in how extreme specialization affects the sense of smell, from the behavioral to the molecular. We are mainly using drosophilid flies as models, but we are also studying other arthropods, including e.g. the giant robber crab (Birgus latro). more>>>
My group investigates how odors affect the behavior of animals as different as vinegar flies, sphingid moths, desert ants, and hermit crabs. We try to understand the basic principles of olfaction either in an evolutionary approach, a neurophysiological approach and an ethological approach. more>>>
Since the molecular and cellular logic of odor coding has been largely deciphered in the model organism, Drosophila melanogaster, the aim of this project is to dissect the neural correlates of natural behaviors (e.g. feeding, courtship and oviposition) associated with flies’ ecological niche using the state-of-the-art technologies in electrophysiology, molecular, chemistry, imaging and ethology.
Former Project Groups
Project leader: Shannon Olsson
By exploiting recent advances in the understanding of pheromone biosynthesis pathways and how pheromone molecules (a key category of so-called infochemicals) are detected and decoded in the insect nervous system we will develop a new class of technology for infochemical communication. more>>>
Project leader: Andreas Reinecke
Insects rely on volatile chemical signals to locate, assess and chose hosts, mates or other resources, but also to avoid enemies. Disentangling complex natural odorant blends to identify behaviourally active compounds is part of the classical chemo-ecological research in our lab.