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Ants easily accumulate cadmium (Cd) from the food web in terrestrial ecosystems. Cd contamination may cause olfactory dysfunction and consequently disorders in the social behavior of ants. To explore the molecular mechanism underlying the effect of Cd exposure on the chemosensory process of ants, we characterized the Cd-induced variations in the expression of genes involved in chemoreception and electrophysiological and behavioral sensitivity to semiochemicals by using the red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta, as a model system. As a result, Cd exposure increased Cd accumulation and decreased the survival rate of S. invicta. Cd exposure altered the expression profiles of odor binding protein genes of S. invicta (SiOBPs). Specifically, SiOBP15 protein expression was upregulated upon Cd exposure. Both SiOBP7 and SiOBP15 exhibited high binding affinities to limonene, nonanal, and 2,4,6-trimethylpyridine. S. invicta exposed to Cd showed less sensitive electrophysiological and behavioral response to the three chemicals but exhibited sensitive perception to undecane. Silencing of SiOBP7 and SiOBP15 abolished the behavioral response of S. invicta to nonanal and undecane, respectively, suggesting that SiOBP7 and SiOBP15 play essential roles in the chemoreception of S. invicta. In general, our results suggest that Cd contamination may interfere with olfactory signal transduction by altering the expression of SiOBPs, consequently evoking chemosensory dysfunction in fire ants.


Fuxiang Yang, Guoqing Zhang, Jinlong Liu, Shuanggang Duan, Lei Li, Yongyue Lu, Man-Qun Wang, Aiming Zhou. Sublethal Exposure to Cadmium Induces Chemosensory Dysfunction in Fire Ants. Environmental science & technology. 2022 Sep 06;56(17):12440-12451

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PMID: 35944015

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