New research published in eNeuro has identified natural, plant-derived compounds that repel fire ants. These compounds, including one found in cinnamon, work by activating a type of ion channel highly expressed in the antennae and leg of one of the world's most invasive insect species.
Native to South America, the red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta) has spread in recent decades across the world to countries such as the United States, Australia and China. Efforts to control the species, which can disrupt agricultural production and sting people with its venom, have been largely unsuccessful.
Tatsuhiko Kadowaki, Makoto Tominaga and colleagues investigated the fire ant transient receptor potential (TRP) channel and found that it functions as a sensor of harmful conditions in its environment. Comparing it to the well-studied honey bee TRP channel, the researchers demonstrate that although it is similarly activated by heat, only eight of the 24 compounds that activated the honey bee TRP channel activated the fire ant version. Since the genes encoding this channel in each species are derived from a common ancestor, this suggests that the fire ant TRP channel has evolved to be less sensitive to the compounds that activate the honey bee TRP channel.
Article: The red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta HsTRPA functions as a nocisensor and uncovers the evolutionary plasticity of HsTRPA channels
Corresponding author: Tatsuhiko Kadowaki (Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, Suzhou, China), Tatsuhiko.Kadowaki@xjtlu.edu.cn
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eNeuro, the Society for Neuroscience's new open-access journal launched in 2014, publishes rigorous neuroscience research with double-blind peer review that masks the identity of both the authors and reviewers, minimizing the potential for implicit biases. eNeuro is distinguished by a broader scope and balanced perspective achieved by publishing negative results, failure to replicate or replication studies. New research, computational neuroscience, theories and methods are also published.
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The Society for Neuroscience is the world's largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system. The nonprofit organization, founded in 1969, now has nearly 37,000 members in more than 90 countries and over 130 chapters worldwide.