Living With Dmel\Orco

Moth Antenna

Male Moth Antenna Is a Platform For Numerous Pheromone Receptors and Orco containing neurons

Evolution produces millions of modifications on a theme. Biologists try to catalog and name them in a systematic way. A useful classification system can persist for centuries. The systematic classification of Linnaeus has been in use for over 260 years. Molecular biology also needs a classification system to facilitate clear and concise communication about genes and proteins that are related by descent with modification. Genes and proteins that are useful and important are retained during the process of evolution. The structures often have slight modifications, but have similar function. A unified nomenclature facilitates discussion among biologists investigating similar molecules in different species.

For example, in application of molecular biology to the study of olfaction in insects, it has been discovered that all insects use an olfactory coreceptor. The coreceptor proteins have similar functions, are all of similar length, over half of the amino acids in the protein chain are identical. They form cation channels in the membrane. The Orco protein is produced in almost all chemosensory neurons and interacts with other olfactory receptors. When originally discovered, Orco was given different names in different species. Sometimes Orco in species A had the same name as Orco from species B but were not identical. To eliminate confusion, Vosshall and Hansson proposed a system that would uniquely and informatively identify Orco’s. Their system uses the First letter of the Genus, and the first 3 letters of the genus (already accepted as convention) to identify the insect that produced the Orco. For Example, Drosophila melanogaster is assigned “Dmel”. Orco is designated \Orco. So the Orco from Drosophila melanogaster is called Dmel\Orco. This may be a jargon to those unfamiliar with olfactory receptors. However, for communication within the field, it will improve communication. Dozens of scientists have signed on.

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
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