Surface Properties and Architectures of Male Moth Trichoid Sensilla Investigated Using Atomic Force Microscopy

Thomas Charles Baker, Qiong Zhou, Charles E. Linn, James Y. Baker, Timothy B. Tighe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The surfaces of trichoid sensilla on male moth antennae have been sculpted over evolutionary time to capture pheromone odorant molecules emitted by the females of their species and transport the molecules in milliseconds into the binding protein milieu of the sensillum lumen. The capture of pheromone molecules likely has been optimized by the topographies and spacings of the numerous ridges and pores on these sensilla. A monolayer of free lipids in the outer epicuticle covers the sensillar surfaces and must also be involved in optimal pheromone odorant capture and transport. Using electro-conductive atomic force microscopy probes, we found that electrical surface potentials of the pores, ridges and flat planar areas between ridges varied in consistent ways, suggesting that there is a heterogeneity in the distribution of surface lipid mixtures amongst these structures that could help facilitate the capture and transport of pheromone molecules down through the pores. We also performed experiments using peak force atomic force microscopy in which we heated the sensilla to determine whether there is a temperature-related change of state of some of the surface lipid exudates such as the prominent domes covering many of the pores. We found that these exudates were unaffected by heating and did not melt or change shape significantly under high heat. Additionally, we measured and compared the topographies of the trichoid sensilla of five species of moths, including the distributions, spacings, heights and diameters of ridges, pores and pore exudates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number423
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Insect Science


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