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Chemoperception (olfaction and taste) is a primary sense of insects, for example, being involved in mate recognition in most species, host plant and animal location in phytophagous and blood-feeding insects, and social communication in termites, ants, and honey bees. A large superfamily of transmembrane chemoreceptor proteins was initially described from the Drosophila genome sequences. We have described similar receptors in mosquito, moth, and honey bee antennae, and are examining them in other upcoming arthropod genome sequences. We are studying their expression, ligand specificity, and evolution.
Following on from work with my colleague Gene Robinson's honey bee brain EST project , I became involved with the honey bee genome project. We are involved with most on-going arthropod genome projects outside of the genus Drosophila. This work in comparative insect genomics is primarily concerned with their chemoreceptor superfamilies, but also with gene loss in various lineages, especially Drosophila flies. These genes are commonly ancient with orthologs in vertebrates, and their loss from Drosophila flies means they can only be studied in non-drosophilid insects.
Updated August 2009