Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry

, Volume 410, Issue 29, pp 7739–7747 | Cite as

Drosophila melanogaster odorant receptors as volatile compound detectors in forensic science: a proof-of-concept study

  • Olivia LeitchEmail author
  • Chris Lennard
  • K. Paul Kirkbride
  • Alisha Anderson
Research Paper


The ability to detect and identify substances based on the volatile compounds (odors) they emit is relied upon heavily for numerous investigative purposes. Animals have an innate olfactory sensitivity and selectivity that out-performs current instrumentation. This has led to immense interest in their employment as chemical sensors for a range of applications, including forensic science, both as whole organisms and as sensing elements in biosensors. Using electrophysiological and calcium imaging assays, this research examined the response of Drosophila melanogaster olfactory receptors (ORs) to odor compounds significant in forensic science and assessed their potential utility as volatile compound sensors. This investigation illustrated the different sensitivities, selectivities, and sensing features of individual ORs and demonstrated that their employment for detection purposes is feasible. While further research expanding on this study will be required to demonstrate the performance characteristics that an OR-based detection system will ultimately possess, this research provides an encouraging first step towards the goal of utilizing isolated biological ORs as volatile compound sensors in forensic science.


Volatile organic compounds Olfactory receptors Vinegar fly Biosensors 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

216_2018_1390_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (365 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 365 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Olivia Leitch
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Chris Lennard
    • 1
    • 4
  • K. Paul Kirkbride
    • 5
  • Alisha Anderson
    • 2
  1. 1.National Centre for Forensic StudiesUniversity of CanberraCanberraAustralia
  2. 2.CSIRO Health and BiosecurityCanberraAustralia
  3. 3.School of Mathematical and Physical SciencesUniversity of Technology SydneyUltimoAustralia
  4. 4.School of Science and HealthWestern Sydney UniversityPenrithAustralia
  5. 5.The College of Science and EngineeringFlinders UniversityBedford ParkAustralia

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