Functional evolution of a bark beetle odorant receptor clade detecting monoterpenoids of different ecological origins

Xiao-Qing Hou, Jothi Kumar Yuvaraj, Rebecca E Roberts, Dan-Dan Zhang, C Rikard Unelius, Christer Löfstedt, Martin N Andersson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (SciVal)


Insects detect odors using an array of odorant receptors (ORs), which may expand through gene duplication. How and which new functions may evolve among related ORs within a species remain poorly investigated. We addressed this question by functionally characterizing ORs from the Eurasian spruce bark beetle Ips typographus, in which physiological and behavioral responses to pheromones, volatiles from host and nonhost trees, and fungal symbionts are well described. In contrast, knowledge of OR function is restricted to two receptors detecting the pheromone compounds (S)-(-)-ipsenol (ItypOR46) and (R)-(-)-ipsdienol (ItypOR49). These receptors belong to an Ips-specific OR-lineage comprising seven ItypORs. To gain insight into the functional evolution of related ORs, we characterized the five remaining ORs in this clade using Xenopus oocytes. Two receptors responded primarily to the host tree monoterpenes (+)-3-carene (ItypOR25) and p-cymene (ItypOR27). Two receptors responded to oxygenated monoterpenoids produced in larger relative amounts by the beetle-associated fungi, with ItypOR23 specific for (+)-trans-(1R, 4S)-4-thujanol, and ItypOR29 responding to (+)-isopinocamphone and similar ketones. ItypOR28 responded to the pheromone E-myrcenol from the competitor Ips duplicatus. Overall, the OR responses match well with those of previously characterized olfactory sensory neuron classes except that neurons detecting E-myrcenol have not been identified. The characterized ORs are under strong purifying selection and demonstrate a shared functional property in that they all primarily respond to monoterpenoids. The variation in functional groups among OR ligands and their diverse ecological origins suggest that neofunctionalization has occurred early in the evolution of this OR-lineage following gene duplication.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4934-4947
JournalMolecular biology and evolution
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Nov

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
  • Evolutionary Biology


  • functional characterization
  • neofunctionalization
  • odorant receptor
  • olfaction
  • purifying selection
  • Xenopus oocyte


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