Olfactory coding in antennal neurons of the malaria mosquito, Anopheles gambiae

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Olfactory receptor neurons (ORNs) in the antenna of insects serve to encode odors in action potential activity conducted to the olfactory lobe of the deuterocerebrum. We performed an analysis of the electrophysiological responses of olfactory neurons in the antennae of the female malaria mosquito Anopheles gambiae s.s. and investigated the effect of blood feeding on responsiveness. Forty-four chemicals that are known to be present in human volatile emanations were used as odor stimuli. We identified 6 functional types of trichoid sensilla and 5 functional types of grooved-peg sensilla (GP) based on a hierarchical cluster analysis. Generalist ORNs, tuned to a broad range of odors, moderate specialist ORNs and 2 ORNs tuned to only one odor were identified in different sensilla types. Neurons in GP were tuned to more polar compounds including the important behavioral attractant ammonia and its synergist L-lactic acid, responses to which were found only in GP. Combinatorial coding is the most plausible principle operating in the olfactory system of this mosquito species. We document for the first time both up- and downregulation of ORN responsiveness after blood feeding. Modulation of host-seeking and oviposition behavior is associated with both qualitative and quantitative changes in the peripheral sensory system
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)845-863
JournalChemical Senses
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2006


  • sensu-stricto diptera
  • spodoptera-littoralis lepidoptera
  • culex-tarsalis diptera
  • host-seeking behavior
  • human skin emanations
  • l-lactic acid
  • aedes-aegypti
  • human-sweat
  • sex-pheromone
  • drosophila-antenna


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