An ability to sense and respond to environmental cues is essential to the survival of most marine animals. How water-borne chemical cues are detected at the molecular level and processed by molluscs is currently unknown. In this study, we cloned two genes from the marine mollusk Aplysia dactylomela which encode multi-transmembrane proteins. We have performed in situ hybridization that reveals expression and spatial distribution within the long-distance chemosensory organs, the rhinophores. This finding suggests that they could be receptors involved in binding water-borne chemicals and coupling to an intracellular signal pathway. In support of this, we found expression of a phospholipase C and an inositol trisphosphate receptor in the rhinophore sensory epithelia and possibly distributed within outer dendrites of olfactory sensory neurons. In Aplysia, mate attraction and subsequent reproduction is initiated by responding to a cocktail of water-borne protein pheromones released by animal conspecifics. We show that the rhinophore contraction in response to pheromone stimulants is significantly altered following phospholipase C inhibition. Overall, these data provide insight into the molecular components of chemosensory detection in a mollusk. An important next step will be the elucidation of how these coordinate the detection of chemical cues present in the marine environment and activation of sensory neurons.
Journal of Experimental Biology / Vol. 212, pp.2037-2044