Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

How fruit flies detect sweet foods

Date:
January 13, 2014
Source:
University of California - Riverside
Summary:
Using the common fruit fly, researchers have performed a study that describes just how the fly's taste receptors detect sweet compounds. Even though these taste receptors were discovered more than a decade ago, how they recognize diverse chemicals remained an enigma and an unmet challenge -- until now. Understanding the mechanisms by which the fly tastes and ingests sweet substances may offer tools to control insect feeding, the researchers say.

Insects, such as the fly seen on a banana in this photo, have taste receptors with which they taste chemicals and make important choices about foods, mates and where to deposit their eggs.
Credit: Dahanukar Lab, UC Riverside

Insects represent remarkable diversity and have adapted to all sorts of ecological nooks and crannies. For example, they have taste receptors -- novel proteins -- with which they taste chemicals and make important choices about not only foods but also mates and where to deposit their eggs. These receptors are widely seen as being at the leading edge of behavioral adaptations.

Related Articles


Now, using the common fruit fly, researchers at the University of California, Riverside have performed a study that describes just how the fly's taste receptors detect sweet compounds.

"Sweet taste serves as an indicator of nutritive value, and the fly, like many other animals, has quite a sweet tooth," said Anupama Dahanukar, an assistant professor of entomology who led the research project.

The fly is a powerful model organism for studying animal development and behavior. Understanding the mechanisms by which it tastes and ingests sweet substances may offer tools to control insect feeding. The proteins that detect sweet compounds in insects belong, however, to a novel family of receptors that are quite different from the ones found in mammals. Even though these insect receptors were discovered more than a decade ago, how they recognize diverse chemicals remained an enigma and an unmet challenge -- until now.

The study, which appears online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, holds promise for uncovering functions of taste receptors in insects that transmit diseases (for example, mosquitoes) or damage crops (for example, beetles and weevils).

The fruit fly has eight sweet taste receptors, and what each one does specifically hasn't been clear. To their surprise, the researchers found that each of the eight receptors confers sensitivity to one or more of the sweet substances they tested in the lab. Their systematic analysis showed that the receptors could be separated into two groups based on which compounds they detect and how closely related they are in sequence.

"Each receptor is likely to make a direct and independent contribution to the overall response spectrum of sweet taste neurons, which could have some important implications in terms of developing strategies to block these receptors," Dahanukar said.

Her research team used a fly olfactory neuron as a host for expressing taste receptors. This particular neuron is unique because, although it is linked to smell, it expresses members of the taste receptor family.

"We expressed sweet taste receptors, one by one, in this neuron, and we found that the host neuron, which normally does not respond to sugars, was now capable of being activated by sweet substances," Dahanukar said.

"One would expect that swapping taste receptors between different taste neurons would be sound strategies, but those have been tried and failed," said Erica Gene Freeman, a bioengineering graduate student working in Dahanukar's lab and the first author of the research paper.

Moving next to mosquitoes, the researchers were able to express a taste receptor from the malaria vector mosquito, Anopheles gambiae, in the fly olfactory neuron.

Despite the evolutionary divergence between mosquitoes and flies, the mosquito taste receptor was functional in the fly neuron in the absence of any other mosquito factors.

"This gives us the impetus for investigating other taste receptors from insects such as mosquitoes that transmit diseases, as well as pests that feed on crops," Dahanukar said. "One important goal is to see if we can use this system to find compounds that can modify feeding behaviors of harmful insects in a targeted manner."

Although the researchers' method is laborious, it is the only technique with which many different taste receptors have been successfully expressed. It offers a platform to probe the specificity of individual taste receptors, potentially from a variety of insects.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California - Riverside. The original article was written by Iqbal Pittalwala. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. E. G. Freeman, Z. Wisotsky, A. Dahanukar. Detection of sweet tastants by a conserved group of insect gustatory receptors. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2014; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1311724111

Cite This Page:

University of California - Riverside. "How fruit flies detect sweet foods." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 January 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140113154217.htm>.
University of California - Riverside. (2014, January 13). How fruit flies detect sweet foods. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140113154217.htm
University of California - Riverside. "How fruit flies detect sweet foods." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140113154217.htm (accessed November 21, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, November 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Your Complicated Job Might Keep Your Brain Young

Your Complicated Job Might Keep Your Brain Young

Newsy (Nov. 20, 2014) Researchers at the University of Edinburgh found the more complex your job is, the sharper your cognitive skills will likely be as you age. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mysterious Glow Worms Found in the Amazon

Mysterious Glow Worms Found in the Amazon

Buzz60 (Nov. 20, 2014) Wildlife photographer Jeff Cremer teamed up with entomologist Aaron Pomerantz and others to investigate a predatory glow worm found in the Amazon. Patrick Jones (@Patrick_E_Jones) explains. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Huge Snow Covers Buffalo Streets

Raw: Huge Snow Covers Buffalo Streets

AP (Nov. 20, 2014) A new blast of lake-effect snow roared through western New York with thunder and lightning on Thursday, raising to nearly 6 feet the three-day total in parts of the Buffalo area. (Nov. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Report Warns of Global Chocolate Shortage

Report Warns of Global Chocolate Shortage

Buzz60 (Nov. 20, 2014) A new report warns the world could face a 2.2-billion pound chocolate shortage within the next five years. Mike Janela (@mikejanela) explains. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins