Drosophila Sugar Receptors in Sweet Taste Perception, Olfaction, and Internal Nutrient Sensing

Current Biology 25(5):621 (2015) PMID 25702577

Identification of nutritious compounds is dependent on expression of specific taste receptors in appropriate taste-cell types [1]. In contrast to mammals, which rely on a single, broadly tuned heterodimeric sugar receptor [2], the Drosophila genome harbors a small subfamily of eight, closely related gustatory receptor (Gr) genes, Gr5a, Gr61a, and Gr64a–Gr64f, of which three have been proposed to mediate sweet taste [3–6]. However, expression and function of several of these putative sugar Gr genes are not known. Here, we present a comprehensive expression and functional analysis using GrLEXA/GAL4 alleles that were generated through homologous recombination. We show that sugar Gr genes are expressed in a combinatorial manner to yield at least eight sets of sweet-sensing neurons. Behavioral investigations show that most sugar Gr mutations affect taste responses to only a small number of sugars and that effective detection of most sugars is dependent on more than one Gr gene. Surprisingly, Gr64a, one of three Gr genes previously proposed to play a major role in sweet taste [3, 4], is not expressed in labellar taste neurons, and Gr64a mutant flies exhibit normal sugar responses elicited from the labellum. Our analysis provides a molecular rationale for distinct tuning profiles of sweet taste neurons, and it favors a model whereby all sugar Grs contribute to sweet taste. Furthermore, expression in olfactory organs and the brain implies novel roles for sugar Gr genes in olfaction and internal nutrient sensing, respectively. Thus, sugar receptors may contribute to feeding behavior via multiple sensory systems.

DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2014.12.058