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Fruit flies are attracted by a diversity of odors that signal the presence of food, potential mates, or attractive egg-laying sites. Most Drosophila olfactory neurons express two types of odorant receptor genes: Or83b, a broadly expressed receptor of unknown function, and one or more members of a family of 61 selectively expressed receptors. While the conventional odorant receptors are highly divergent, Or83b is remarkably conserved between insect species. Two models could account for Or83b function: it could interact with specific odor stimuli independent of conventional odorant receptors, or it could act in concert with these receptors to mediate responses to all odors. Our results support the second model. Dendritic localization of conventional odorant receptors is abolished in Or83b mutants. Consistent with this cellular defect, the Or83b mutation disrupts behavioral and electrophysiological responses to many odorants. Or83b therefore encodes an atypical odorant receptor that plays an essential general role in olfaction.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





703 - 714


Animals, Cell Differentiation, Cell Membrane, Central Nervous System, Dendrites, Drosophila Proteins, Drosophila melanogaster, Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental, Gene Targeting, Mutation, Olfactory Pathways, Olfactory Receptor Neurons, Phylogeny, Receptors, Odorant, Signal Transduction, Smell, Species Specificity