Amino Acid Residues Contributing to Function of the Heteromeric Insect Olfactory Receptor Complex

<div><p>Olfactory receptors (Ors) convert chemical signals—the binding of odors and pheromones—to electrical signals through the depolarization of olfactory sensory neurons. Vertebrates Ors are G-protein-coupled receptors, stimulated by odors to produce intracellular second messengers that gate ion channels. Insect Ors are a heteromultimeric complex of unknown stoichiometry of two seven transmembrane domain proteins with no sequence similarity to and the opposite membrane topology of G-protein-coupled receptors. The functional insect Or comprises an odor- or pheromone-specific Or subunit and the Orco co-receptor, which is highly conserved in all insect species. The insect Or-Orco complex has been proposed to function as a novel type of ligand-gated nonselective cation channel possibly modulated by G-proteins. However, the Or-Orco proteins lack homology to any known family of ion channel and lack known functional domains. Therefore, the mechanisms by which odors activate the Or-Orco complex and how ions permeate this complex remain unknown. To begin to address the relationship between Or-Orco structure and function, we performed site-directed mutagenesis of all 83 conserved Glu, Asp, or Tyr residues in the silkmoth BmOr-1-Orco pheromone receptor complex and measured functional properties of mutant channels expressed in <em>Xenopus</em> oocytes. 13 of 83 mutations in BmOr-1 and BmOrco altered the reversal potential and rectification index of the BmOr-1-Orco complex. Three of the 13 amino acids (D299 and E356 in BmOr-1 and Y464 in BmOrco) altered both current-voltage relationships and K<sup>+</sup> selectivity. We introduced the homologous Orco Y464 residue into <em>Drosophila</em> Orco <em>in vivo</em>, and observed variable effects on spontaneous and evoked action potentials in olfactory neurons that depended on the particular Or-Orco complex examined. Our results provide evidence that a subset of conserved Glu, Asp and Tyr residues in both subunits are essential for channel activity of the heteromeric insect Or-Orco complex.</p> </div>