Breakthrough in Fight Against Spruce Bark Beetles; Scientists Identify 73 Different Odorant Receptors in Beetle Antennae and Characterize the Odorant Response in Two; Findings May Enable Efforts to Interfere with Bark Beetles to Save Spruce Trees

For the first time, a research team led by scientists at Lund University in Sweden has mapped out exactly what happens when spruce bark beetles use their sense of smell to find trees and partners to reproduce with. The hope is that the results will lead to better pest control and protection of the forest in the future. The Eurasian spruce bark beetle uses its sense of smell to locate trees and partners. The odors are captured via odorant receptors (proteins) in their antennae. Researchers have long understood the connection, but so far they have not known exactly which receptors bind to what pheromones. This is key knowledge for the long-term development of more effective and environmentally friendly pesticides and bark beetle traps used to protect the forest. The research team was able to characterize the response of odorant receptors in bark beetles for the first time. They identified 73 different receptors in the antennae of the Eurasian spruce bark beetle (Ips typographus), and succeeded in characterizing the odor response in two of the receptors. One responds to the pheromone ipsenol, the other to ipsdienol. “A large number of different bark beetle species use these pheromones when communicating with scents, so the fact that we have been able to characterize them is a breakthrough,” says Martin N. Andersson, PhD, at Lund University, who led the research group consisting of researchers in Sweden, Germany and the Czech Republic. The new research was published online on January 26, 2021 in BMC Biology. The open-access article is titled “Putative Ligand Binding Sites of Two Functionally Characterized Bark Beetle Odorant Receptors.”
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