The Eppendorf and Science Neurobiology Prize is awarded annually to one young scientist for the most outstanding neurobiological research based on methods of molecular and cell biology conducted by him/her during the past three years.
the Essay: Poster_Benton-Scienceand EppendorfPrizeEvolution and revolution in odour detection
Understanding how diverse odour signals are detected and represented in the brain has long fascinated sensory neuroscientists. Vertebrate and insect olfactory systems display striking similarities in their neuroanatomical and physiological properties, suggesting an evolutionarily conserved mechanism for odour perception. Richard Benton’s essay describes his studies on the molecular biology of odour detection in Drosophila, which have revealed several surprises in how insects sense volatile chemicals. First, he showed that insect Odorant Receptors (ORs), unlike those in vertebrates (and contrary to dogma), are not G protein-coupled receptors, defining instead a novel, insect-specific family of transmembrane proteins. Second, he found pheromone-sensing ORs require a co-factor normally associated with immune recognition to be activated by their ligands. Finally, he discovered a second family of insect olfactory receptors that are homologous to ionotropic glutamate receptors, a class of ligand-gated ion channel best-known for their role in synaptic communication. His discoveries raise questions about the evolutionary origin of insect olfactory signalling and whether established parallels between insect and vertebrate olfactory systems represent conserved or convergent features. Furthermore, these unusual molecular solutions for odour detection represent excellent targets for specific chemical inhibitors that could be used to control odour-evoked behaviours of insect vectors of human diseases.
For Dr. Benton‘s full essay, see Science online at science.org.Poster_Benton-Scienceand EppendorfPrize