The only known volatile pheromone in Drosophila, 11-cis-vaccenyl acetate (cVA), mediates a variety of behaviors including aggregation, mate recognition, and sexual behavior. cVA is detected by a small set of olfactory neurons located in T1 trichoid sensilla on the antennae of males and females. Two components known to be required for cVA reception are the odorant receptor Or67d and the extracellular pheromone-binding protein LUSH. Using a genetic screen for cVA-insensitive mutants, we have identified a third component required for cVA reception: sensory neuron membrane protein (SNMP). SNMP is a homolog of CD36, a scavenger receptor important for lipoprotein binding and uptake of cholesterol and lipids in vertebrates. In humans, loss of CD36 is linked to a wide range of disorders including insulin resistance, dyslipidemia, and atherosclerosis, but how CD36 functions in lipid transport and signal transduction is poorly understood. We show that SNMP is required in pheromone-sensitive neurons for cVA sensitivity but is not required for sensitivity to general odorants. Using antiserum to SNMP infused directly into the sensillum lymph, we show that SNMP function is required on the dendrites of cVA-sensitive neurons; this finding is consistent with a direct role in cVA signal transduction. Therefore, pheromone perception in Drosophila should serve as an excellent model to elucidate the role of CD36 members in transmembrane signaling.
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