In the moth Agrotis ipsilon, the behavioral response of males to the female-emitted sex pheromone increases throughout adult life and following a prior exposure to sex pheromone, whereas it is temporally inhibited after the onset of mating. This behavioral flexibility is paralleled with changes in neuronal sensitivity to pheromone signal within the primary olfactory centers, the antennal lobes. In the present study, we tested the hypothesis that neuroligins, post-synaptic transmembrane proteins known to act as mediators of neuronal remodeling, are involved in the olfactory modulation in A. ipsilon males. We cloned a full-length cDNA encoding neuroligin 1, which is expressed predominantly in brain and especially in antennal lobes. The level of neuroligin 1 expression in antennal lobes gradually raised from day-2 until day-4 of adult life, as well as at 24 h, 48 h and 72 h following pre-exposure to sex pheromone, and the temporal dynamic of these changes correlated with increased sex pheromone responsiveness. By contrast, there was no significant variation in antennal lobe neuroligin 1 expression during the post-mating refractory period. Taken together, these results highlight that age- and odor experience-related increase in sex pheromone responsiveness is linked to the overexpression of neuroligin 1 in antennal lobes, thus suggesting a potential role played by this post-synaptic cell-adhesion molecule in mediating the plasticity of the central olfactory system in A. ipsilon.

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