Research Spotlight: Olfactory Coding In <i>Drosophila Melanogaster</i>

Silke Sachse and Bill S. Hansson

in Structure and Evolution of Invertebrate Nervous Systems

Published in print December 2015 | ISBN: 9780199682201
Published online March 2016 | e-ISBN: 9780191813436 | DOI:
Research Spotlight: Olfactory Coding In Drosophila Melanogaster

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The chemical senses—taste and smell—are the oldest animal senses. They are characterized by a multidimensional and diverse stimulus space, consisting of many molecules that cannot be classified along any narrow set of dimensions. In the case of the olfactory system, animals detect low molecular weight volatile chemicals (i.e. odorants) with the help of specialized olfactory sensory neurons that express one or a few ligand-binding odorant receptor proteins. Animals cope with the problem of recognizing an extremely large number of different odorants by programming a very large number of functionally different olfactory neurons. Odours activate these neurons and generate characteristic activity patterns across the neuron population, which are relayed to second-order olfactory neurons. The entire available raw information about the animal’s olfactory environment is present in these patterns; however, olfactory information is further processed before it is relayed to higher-order brain centres. Drosophila melanogaster provides an attractive model organism for studying olfaction, as it allows genetic, molecular, and physiological analyses. In recent years, immense progress has been achieved in understanding the olfactory neuronal circuits that underlie the coding and processing of odours in Drosophila. Here, the chapter reviews our present state of knowledge regarding the anatomical architecture of the fly’s olfactory system as well as giving recent insights into the coding strategies of the different neuronal populations involved.

Keywords: vinegar fly; chemical senses; taste; smell; odours; olfactory system

Chapter.  5166 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Zoology and Animal Sciences

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