The hawkmoth Manduca sexta and one of its preferred hosts in the North American Southwest, Datura wrightii, share a model insect-plant relationship based on mutualistic and antagonistic life-history traits. D. wrightii is the innately preferred nectar source and oviposition host for M. sexta. Hence, the hawkmoth is an important pollinator while the M. sexta larvae are specialized herbivores of the plant. Olfactory detection of plant volatiles plays a crucial role in the behavior of the hawkmoth. In vivo, the odorant receptor coreceptor (Orco) is an obligatory component for the function of odorant receptors (ORs), a major receptor family involved in insect olfaction. We used CRISPR-Cas9 targeted mutagenesis to knock out (KO) the MsexOrco gene to test the consequences of a loss of OR-mediated olfaction in an insect-plant relationship. Neurophysiological characterization revealed severely reduced antennal and antennal lobe responses to representative odorants emitted by D. wrightii. In a wind-tunnel setting with a flowering plant, Orco KO hawkmoths showed disrupted flight orientation and an ablated proboscis extension response to the natural stimulus. The Orco KO gravid female displayed reduced attraction toward a nonflowering plant. However, more than half of hawkmoths were able to use characteristic odor-directed flight orientation and oviposit on the host plant. Overall, OR-mediated olfaction is essential for foraging and pollination behaviors, but plant-seeking and oviposition behaviors are sustained through additional OR-independent sensory cues.
|Number of pages||9|
|Journal||Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America|
|Publication status||Published - 30 Jul 2019|
- Insect olfaction
- Insect-plant interactions
- Manduca sexta