Mutation in Male Moth’s Antenna Lets Him Find a Female at the Other End of a Football Field

ScienceDaily (Aug. 14, 2012) — A female moth sitting on a goal post could attract a male moth on the other end of a football field. And even if she switched her scent over time, the male could still find her because of a mutation to a single gene in his antenna.

A female moth sitting on a goal post could attract a male moth on the other end of a football field. And even if she switched her scent over time, the male could still find her because of a mutation to a single gene in his antenna. (Credit: Image courtesy of Montana State University)

A team of researchers led by Montana State University entomologist Kevin Wanner identified that gene after seeing how it adapted to even the slightest change in the chemicals female moths emit to attract males. The scientists explained their findings in the Aug. 13 online edition of theProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Understanding the genetics behind moth communication could lead to natural ways to control pests, said Wanner, who has dual assignments in the Department of Plant Sciences and Plant Pathology and MSU Extension. Scientists could someday design new scents that would make it impossible for male moths to find females of the same species. The European corn borer alone is one of the most damaging insect pests of corn throughout the United States and Canada. The losses it causes and the cost to control it is estimated at more than $1 billion each year.

In the meantime, the discovery that involved hundreds of moths, an MSU-University of Montana collaboration, and a vital piece of equipment adds to the basic understanding of insect genetics, Wanner said. One area of interest focuses on the genetic barriers that keep moths from mating outside their own species.

Scientists have studied communication between male and female moths and butterflies for more than a century. They found the first sex pheromones in moths 50 years ago. But they still know little about the molecular mechanics that make communication so specific to a species, Wanner said. In some cases, different moth species are so much alike that scientists can only tell them apart by their different pheromones.

Pheromones are the blends of chemical odors that females emit to attract males of the same species for mating. If the ratio or chemicals themselves change during the evolution of a new species, the male needs to adapt or he won’t be able to find the female. How male moths adapt to pheromone changes in females has been a long-standing question.

Female moths release just nanograms — a billionth of a gram — of pheromone from a gland at the tip of their abdomen, Wanner said. He added that this amount is far too small for humans to smell, but male moths within 300 feet of the females can detect it with the sensory cells on their antennae.

The journey that led to the PNAS paper began in 2008 when Wanner came to MSU. It continued in 2009 when Jean Allen became a master’s degree student in Wanner’s laboratory. Allen — who earned her undergraduate degree from New Mexico State University — received her master’s degree in December 2010 and is now a research associate in Wanner’s lab.

She started her thesis work by obtaining live corn borer moths raised in colonies at Cornell University in New York, from collaborator and coauthor Charles Linn Jr., Allen said. She extracted RNA, genetic material from the male moths’ antennae, to find the receptor genes that detect the female pheromone. She identified the probable receptor of interest.

Wanner then turned to Greg Leary and Michael Kavanaugh in the Center for Structural and Functional Neuroscience at the University of Montana. Since Wanner didn’t have an instrument to analyze male moth receptors to see how they responded to a parade of different pheromones, the two tested the receptors with their equipment. They also made a series of mutations that were later confirmed by Allen. After Wanner was able to buy an Opus Xpress instrument, Leary helped trained Allen how to use it.

After analyzing several receptors and 47 possibilities for amino acid mutations, the collaborators finally found the one that clearly provided an adaptation to the changing pheromone structure.

It was a eureka moment, according to Allen and Wanner.

“It was a lot of work,” Wanner added. “We had no rational way to know which one it was.”

He noted that the Opus Xpress instrument was critical for their discovery. Commonly used in pharmacology and medical research to study how different drugs interact with their target receptor, the instrument in this case allowed the researchers to study, in the lab, how the pheromone receptors in the male moth responded to different pheromone chemicals.

“Without this instrument, we would not have been able to identify the critical receptor and identify the specific mutation in that receptor that allowed it to adapt to a new pheromone structure,” Wanner said.

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted from materials provided byMontana State University. The original article was written by Evelyn Boswell.


Journal Reference:

  1. G. P. Leary, J. E. Allen, P. L. Bunger, J. B. Luginbill, C. E. Linn, I. E. Macallister, M. P. Kavanaugh, K. W. Wanner.Single mutation to a sex pheromone receptor provides adaptive specificity between closely related moth speciesProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2012; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1204661109
Citation:

Montana State University (2012, August 14). Mutation in male moth’s antenna lets him find a female at the other end of a football field.ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 16, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120814121117.htm
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Dermatologists’ Tips to Reduce the Signs of Aging

ScienceDaily (Aug. 14, 2012) — Getting better results from your anti-aging products can be as easy as following simple tips from dermatologists.

“People often think that the more expensive a product is, the more effective it will be,” said board-certified dermatologist Susan C. Taylor, MD, FAAD, founding director of the Skin of Color Center at St. Luke’s and Roosevelt Hospitals in New York City. “That’s not always the case. People need to shop smart since there are some very effective, affordable products in the skin care aisles of their local stores.”

To get the most from age-fighting products, Dr. Taylor recommends people also follow these tips:

1. Wear sunscreen every day since the sun’s rays can accelerate signs of aging. Use a sunscreen or facial moisturizer that offers broad-spectrum protection and has an SPF of at least 30. Be sure to apply sunscreen to all skin that is not covered by clothing.

2. Do not tan. Getting a tan from the sun or a tanning bed exposes you to harmful UV rays that can accelerate aging, causing wrinkles, age spots, a blotchy complexion and even skin cancer.

3. Moisturize. Moisturizing traps water in the skin, which can help reduce the appearance of some fine lines and make your complexion look brighter and younger.

4. Test products, even those labeled “hypoallergenic.” To test, dab a small amount of the product on your inner forearm twice a day for four to five days. If you do not have a reaction, it is likely safe for you to apply to your face.

5. Use the product as directed. Active ingredients can do more harm than good when too much is used. Applying more than directed can cause clogged pores, a blotchy complexion, or other unwanted effects.

6. Stop using products that sting or burn unless prescribed by a dermatologist. Irritating the skin makes signs of aging more noticeable.

o Some products prescribed by a dermatologist may cause stinging or burning. When under a dermatologist’s care, this can be safe and effective.

7. Limit the number of products. Using too many products on your skin, especially more than one anti-aging product, tends to irritate the skin. This often makes signs of aging more noticeable.

“It’s very important that people allow time for the product to work. While a moisturizer can immediately plump up fine lines, most products take at least six weeks to work and sometimes it can take three months,” said Dr. Taylor. “See a dermatologist if after following these tips you still do not see the expected results,” said Dr. Taylor.

 


Story Source:

The above story is reprinted from materials provided byAmerican Academy of Dermatology (AAD), via Newswise.


Citation:

American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) (2012, August 14). Dermatologists’ tips to reduce the signs of aging. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 16, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120814085330.htm