BMC Biol. 2022 Oct 11;20(1):230. doi: 10.1186/s12915-022-01425-w.
Background: The nose of most animals comprises multiple sensory subsystems, which are defined by the expression of different olfactory receptor families. Drosophila melanogaster antennae contain two morphologically and functionally distinct subsystems that express odorant receptors (Ors) or ionotropic receptors (Irs). Although these receptors have been thoroughly characterized in this species, the subsystem-specific expression and roles of other genes are much less well-understood.
Results: Here we generate subsystem-specific transcriptomic datasets to identify hundreds of genes, encoding diverse protein classes, that are selectively enriched in either Or or Ir subsystems. Using single-cell antennal transcriptomic data and RNA in situ hybridization, we find that most neuronal genes-other than sensory receptor genes-are broadly expressed within the subsystems. By contrast, we identify many non-neuronal genes that exhibit highly selective expression, revealing substantial molecular heterogeneity in the non-neuronal cellular components of the olfactory subsystems. We characterize one Or subsystem-specific non-neuronal molecule, Osiris 8 (Osi8), a conserved member of a large, insect-specific family of transmembrane proteins. Osi8 is expressed in the membranes of tormogen support cells of pheromone-sensing trichoid sensilla. Loss of Osi8 does not have obvious impact on trichoid sensillar development or basal neuronal activity, but abolishes high sensitivity responses to pheromone ligands.
Conclusions: This work identifies a new protein required for insect pheromone detection, emphasizes the importance of support cells in neuronal sensory functions, and provides a resource for future characterization of other olfactory subsystem-specific genes.
Keywords: Comparative transcriptomics; Drosophila melanogaster; Olfactory subsystem; Osiris 8; Pheromone detection; Sensory neuron; Support cell.