The Red Palm Weevil (RPW) Rhynchophorus ferrugineus (Oliver) is one of the most damaging invasive insect species in the world. This weevil is highly specialized to thrive in adverse desert climates, and it causes major economic losses due to its effects on palm trees around the world. RPWs locate palm trees by means of plant volatile cues and use an aggregation pheromone to coordinate a mass-attack. Here we report on the high throughput sequencing of the RPW antennal transcriptome and present a description of the highly expressed chemosensory gene families.
Deep sequencing and assembly of the RPW antennal transcriptome yielded 35,667 transcripts with an average length of 857 bp and identified a large number of highly expressed transcripts of odorant binding proteins (OBPs), chemosensory proteins (CSPs), odorant receptors/co-receptors (ORs/Orcos), sensory neuron membrane proteins (SNMPs), gustatory receptors (GRs) and ionotropic receptors (IRs). In total, 38 OBPs, 12 CSPs, 76 ORs, 1 Orco, 6 SNMPs, 15 GRs and 10 IRs were annotated in the R. ferrugineus antennal transcriptome. A comparative transcriptome analysis with the bark beetle showed that 25 % of the blast hits were unique to R. ferrugineus, indicating a higher, more complete transcript coverage for R. ferrugineus. We categorized the RPW ORs into seven subfamilies of coleopteran ORs and predicted two new subfamilies of ORs. The OR protein sequences were compared with those of the flour beetle, the cerambycid beetle and the bark beetle, and we identified coleopteran-specific, highly conserved ORs as well as unique ORs that are putatively involved in RPW aggregation pheromone detection. We identified 26 Minus-C OBPs and 8 Plus-C OBPs and grouped R. ferrugineus OBPs into different OBP-subfamilies according to phylogeny, which indicated significant species-specific expansion and divergence in R. ferrugineus. We also identified a diverse family of CSP proteins, as well as a coleopteran-specific CSP lineage that diverged from Diptera and Lepidoptera. We identified several extremely diverged IR orthologues as well as highly conserved insect IR co-receptor orthologous transcripts in R. ferrugineus. Notably, GR orthologous transcripts for CO2-sensing and sweet tastants were identified in R. ferrugineus, and we found a great diversity of GRs within the coleopteran family. With respect to SNMP-1 and SNMP-2 orthologous transcripts, one SNMP-1 orthologue was found to be strikingly highly expressed in the R. ferrugineus antennal transcriptome.
Our study presents the first comprehensive catalogue of olfactory gene families involved in pheromone and general odorant detection in R. ferrugineus, which are potential novel targets for pest control strategies.