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Published: Jun.23.2012

Challenging the Insect Olfaction Paradigm: New Evidence

Thomas M. Dykstra (Invited Speaker)
Dykstra Laboratories, Inc.

Entomology textbooks report that a given insect smells an odorant when the odorant passes through tiny holes in the insect’s sensillae, latches on to an odorant binding protein, is transported across the sensillar lymph via diffusion, and then somehow binds with an odorant receptor on the dendritic membrane.

If obeying the laws of diffusion, the odorant cannot reach the dendritic membrane in time. Therefore, in an attempt to speed up the process, electrostatic attraction is brought forward as a new mechanism. After analysis of charges on the dendritic membrane (positive) as well as the charges on pheromone binding proteins (highly positive), electrostatic repulsion is instead determined to be occurring, further invalidating the textbook paradigm.

Research with frog oocytes (eggs) has revealed that odorants can activate (via ion flow) the oocyte, once insect odorant receptors are expressed in its plasma membrane. Activation definitely occurs, but binding has not been demonstrated, only assumed. Since binding is all but impossible in vivo, the question remains as to how the odorant activates the receptor in vivo, and in vitro, and if the mechanism is the same for each. Adding to the doubt, the binding sites on the odorant receptor have not been determined yet.

Research with liposomes has also revealed that odorants can activate the artificial membrane when insect odorant receptors are expressed in its membrane. However, this effect was also demonstrated with non-odorant receptor proteins where binding is not at all likely. If binding cannot reasonably occur, then maybe activation of the odorant receptor is occurring at a distance. If at a distance, then electromagnetics may be implicated.

The transfer of electromagnetic energy is assisted by certain media. An ionic solution can provide the necessary medium. All biological tissues contain ionic solutions. Not only does this include the insect sensilla, but the insect effectively protects this particular ionic solution from corruption via supporting cells and biological pumps. In addition to the usual salts found within living organisms, there is also the added charge benefit of the aforementioned binding proteins. Supporting evidence for charged media in arthropod sensillae comes from crustaceans, as well as from the frog oocytes and the liposome research mentioned above. In each case, activation either occurs with a charged medium, or increases in intensity with an increasingly charged medium.

Unable to satisfy the current theory of insect olfaction using physical laws, and in light of the evidence brought forward by frog oocytes and liposomes, a new theory needs to be proposed. Support for an electromagnetic theory is presented from a wide variety of sources so that a cross disciplinary approach may enable olfactory scientists to investigate this process further.

Bio: Thomas Dykstra is owner of Dykstra Laboratories, Inc., based in Gainesville, FL, USA. The laboratory is devoted to research and development in the field of bioelectromagnetics (how electromagnetic fields influence life). Mr. Dykstra has consulted with engineers, agricultural scientists, academic institutions, government agencies, and private companies. He has travelled internationally to present lectures on diverse topics covering entomology, olfactory physiology, biophysics, paramagnetism, neurobiology, and antennae.