Skip to main content


Analysis of odor coding in Drosophilia

Research Achievements

Analysis of odor coding in Drosophilia

Insects perceive odors to identify their hosts and other environmental cues. This involves highly specific and sensitive detection of small volatile molecules by a large ensemble of odour receptors. Under the guidance of Ray (biologist) and Girke (bioinformaticist), IGERT fellow Sean Boyle performed a systems-level analysis of odor coding in a large chemical space for the antennal repertoire of 24 odor receptors in Drosophila. Cheminformatics was employed to identify structural features shared by activating odours for each receptor and these in turn were utilized to screen a library of compounds representing virtually all possible volatiles for novel ligands. Functional validation supported a 75% success rate, including >100 novel activators and inhibitors for the subset of receptors tested. Predicted activators for each receptor were used to test >240,000 compounds, including an extensive collection of plant volatiles, by ensembles of odour receptors in mammals and in Drosophila.