Posts Tagged: Walter Leal
That quote sound familiar? Chemical ecologist Jacques Le Magnen (1916-2002) said that back in 1970.
World-renowned organic chemist Wittko Francke (right) of the University of Hamburg, Germany, called attention to Le Magnen's quote at a UC Davis Department of Entomology seminar on Wednesday noon, Dec. 8.
It bears repeating: "Nature is more a world of scents than a source of noise."
Insects communicate in a chemical language or chemical signals, Francke told the crowd.
Indeed, scientists have long known that methods that can attract or repel insects have important applications for agricultural pests and medical entomology.
Francke told how a queen bee secretes compounds that regulate development and behavior of the colony, and how an orchid releases the scent of a female wasp to attract male wasps— a scent that results in pollination. He also touched on the “calling cards” of a number of other insects, including bumble bees, wasps, pea gall midges, stingless bees, bark beetles and leafminers. He pointed out that that plants, too, send chemical signals.
UC Davis graduate students James Harwood and Amy Morice of the James R. Carey lab video-taped the seminar. It will be online soon at http://entomology.ucdavis.edu/news/webcastlinks.html
Francke was introduced by chemical ecologist-forest entomologist (and UC Davis Department of Entomology affiliate) Steve Seybold of the USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station, Davis.
No stranger to UC Davis, Francke previously collaborated with chemical ecologist Walter Leal, professor and former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, on attractants for navel orangeworm.
In his talk, Francke mentioned Leal’s discovery of a sophisticated mechanism for the isolation of the chemical communication channels of two species of scarab beetles.
Seybold and Francke are collaborating on the chemical signals of the walnut twig beetle, which in association with a newly described fungus, causes thousand cankers disease, a killer of walnut trees.
Thousand cankers disease (TCD) is now found in seven western states, plus Tennessee. Seybold is a key researcher in California.
Scientists believe that TCD occurs only on walnut, predominantly native black walnut, Juglans californica and J. hindsii, although the disease has been recorded on 10 species of walnuts or their hybrids in California.
Often the first symptoms of TCD are flagging and yellowing leaves and branch dieback, said Seybold, who has been studying the chemical ecology and behavior of bark beetles for more than 25 years. Affected branches show sap staining and pinhole-sized beetle holes. Beneath the surface are dark stains caused by the fungus.
A USDA/UC Davis research team is tracking the pathogen and the beetle throughout California, particularly in commercial orchards.
That all points back to “Nature is more a world of scents than a source of noise.”
They Deal with Scents
"He is slim and intense, with graying hair and clipped sentences jagged with inflections from his years in Brazil and Japan. And he does not, perhaps cannot, quit."
So wrote freelance journalist Carrie Peyton Dahlberg, formerly with the Sacramento Bee, in her excellent profile of chemical ecologist Walter Leal, published today on the American Association for the Advancement of Science website.
Leal, professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, "tries to understand at the molecular level exactly what an insect is smelling, and how it relies on scent to interact with the world," she wrote.
Her article included a great quote from Leal's colleague, John Hildebrand, a neurobiology professor at the University of Arizona, Tucson.
“He’s one of the most dynamic people in the field. He’s a remarkably energetic and passionate person about his work … and notorious almost for the rapid fire way he speaks. He loves to joke that he can say twice as much in a lecture as anyone else because he only says half of each word.”
It was the Leal lab that discovered the secret mode of DEET. The groundbreaking research proved that “DEET doesn’t mask the smell of the host or jam the insect’s senses," Leal said in a UC Davis Department of Entomology news story. "Mosquitoes don’t like it because it smells bad to them.”
DEET’s mode of action or how it works puzzled scientists for more than 50 years. The chemical insect repellent, developed by scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and patented by the U.S. Army in 1946, is considered the "gold standard" of insect repellents worldwide. Worldwide, more than 200 million use DEET to ward off vectorborne diseases.
Scientists long surmised, incorrectly, that DEET masks the smell of the host, or jams or corrupts the insect’s senses, interfering with its ability to locate a host. Mosquitoes and other blood-feeding insects find their hosts by body heat, skin odors, carbon dioxide (breath), or visual stimuli. Females need a blood meal to develop their eggs.
In her article, Peyton Dahlberg said Leal is trying to find something better than DEET.
Wrote Peyton Dahlberg: "DEET is a flawed tool, a chemical that needs to be used at high doses, can affect human biology, and isn’t recommended for very young infants, according to Leal and others who have studied it. The point is finding something better than DEET, something more targeted to the most problematic insects and less dangerous for everything else, including people."
Leal told her that that to search for safer alternatives to DEET and other insecticides, researchers need to better understand the mechanisms of scent detection and chemical communication.
Leal indeed has a "nose for insects' sense of smell," as the AAAS headline pointed out.
The female silkworm moth releases a sex pheromone, bombykol, that's very enticing to the male. He can detect it from miles away.
Now researchers in the UC Davis Department of Entomology have discovered that the fruit fly has a native odorant receptor that detects the silkworm moth’s sex pheromone, and that it’s “amazingly more sensitive” than the moth’s odorant receptor.
Their work could open research doors for insect-inspired biosensors.Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS).
Their research follows on the heels of another study they published in PNAS in 2006 with the Deborah Kimbrell genetics lab in the UC Davis College of Biological Sciences. Bottom line: they found that genetically engineered fruit flies responded to the silkworm moth scent of a female.
Now Leal and Syed have identified the odorant receptor in the male fruit fly that detects the sex pheromone.Ecologist and evolutionary biologist Fred Gould of North Carolina State University, not affiliated with the research, says the work of the UC Davis researchers "provides important guidance and tools for other researchers who want to explore the pheromone communication systems of other species, or who want to further dissect the mechanisms within the specialized hairs of silkworms that enable this high sensitivity.”
What we have here with the silkworm moths and fruit flies is definitely not a "failure to communicate."
Scent of a Female
Charles W.Woodworth would have been proud.
When the C. W. Woodworth Award, the highest award offered by the Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America (PBESA) was awarded this week to chemical ecologist Walter Leal, professor of entomology at UC Davis, it linked two entomology trailblazers.
Woodworth (1865-1940), considered the founder of both the UC Berkeley and UC Davis departments of entomology, is an entomological legend. Leal is a worldwide authority on the relatively new field of insect communication and olfaction.
Woodworth's great-grandson, Brian Holden of Monte Sereno, Calif., attended the PBESA meeting in Boise, Idaho, to present the award.
“Because of his deep and meaningful body of work over the last 10 years, Dr. Walter S. Leal of UC Davis is a wonderful selection as the 42nd recipient of the C.W. Woodworth Award," said Holden, who is writing a book on his great-grandfather. "His research into the detailed neuronal responses in mosquitoes to DEET and nonanal has been particularly impressive. His research has improved our knowledge of mosquito behavior in the presence of these two compounds, both of which are central in the efforts to understand and control mosquito-borne illness."
Both Leal and Holden are closely connected to UC Davis. Leal joined the Department of Entomology 10 years ago and served as department chair. Holden received his bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering from UC Davis in 1981.
If you look on Wikipedia, you can glean information about the remarkable career of C. W. Woodworth and the award. His great-grandson researched and wrote the entries.
If you look on the UC Davis entomology Web site, you can read about the remarkable work of Walter Leal.
Brian Holden and Walter Leal
Charles W. Woodworth
It's a killer, pure and simple.
But the issue is as complex as it comes.
The malaria mosquito, from the genus Anopheles, infects some 350 to 500 million people a year, killing more than a million. Most are young children in sub-Saharan Africa.
Female mosquitoes “bite” because they require a blood meal to develop their eggs. They detect their prey via olfactory receptor neurons found on their antennae, the insect equivalent to the human “nose.”
When Anopheline mosquitoes are infected with a parasite that causes malaria, the insect-host transmission occurs. The result: a deadly killer.
Identifying exactly how malaria mosquitoes detect their human prey is crucial to developing strategies for mosquito control, says chemical ecologist Walter Leal, professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis.
Leal, recently asked to write a "News-and-Views" piece on a Yale-Vanderbilt study for the international science journal, Nature, did so eloquently in its March 4th edition. He praised the scientific report as a “milestone discovery in our understanding of the malaria mosquito’s sense of smell.”In the article, headlined "The Treacherous Scent of a Human," Leal zeroes in the widespread threat of malaria, a disease that threatens half of the world’s population. It's "an accessory to the deaths of about one million humans every year,” Leal wrote. “Globally, the number of people who get malaria each year is greater than the population of the United States.”
That's putting a number on the numbers.
The Yale-Vanderbilt team, headed by John Carlson of the Yale Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, examined 79 of the malaria mosquito’s odorant receptors, finding that some are well-tuned to detect specific human odors and others aren’t. Certain odorants activate some receptors but inhibit others, according to their comprehensive study published March 4 in Nature.
Indeed. The Leal lab back in 2008 published groundbreaking research that revealed the secret mode of the insect repellent, DEET. The scent doesn't jam the insect senses and it doesn't mask the smell of the host, as scientists previously thought. Mosquitoes avoid it because it smells bad to them.
Leal advocates more molecular studies in the war against malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases. But that research can't stand alone. As he succinctly points out: “The development of effective malaria control will require a multidisciplinary approach that includes, but is not limited to, improvements to social infrastructure in countries affected by disease, vaccination programs and vector management.”New mosquito attractants or repellents, he says, could be developed through reverse chemical ecology, determining which odorant attracts and which repels.
Mosquitoes don't like the scent of DEET. What else do they NOT like?
The study, as Leal correctly observes, "offers a fresh strategy for controlling the unwitting accessories to one of the world’s most prolific killers.”
Walter Leal in lab