Journal Article

<i>Drosophila melanogaster</i> Prefers Compounds Perceived Sweet by Humans

Beth Gordesky-Gold, Natasha Rivers, Osama M. Ahmed and Paul A.S. Breslin

in Chemical Senses

Volume 33, issue 3, pages 301-309
Published in print March 2008 | ISSN: 0379-864X
Published online January 2008 | e-ISSN: 1464-3553 | DOI:
Drosophila melanogaster Prefers Compounds Perceived Sweet by Humans

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To understand the functional similarities of fly and mammalian taste receptors, we used a top–down approach that first established the fly sweetener–response profile. We employed the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, an omnivorous human commensal, and determined its sensitivity to an extended set of stimuli that humans find sweet. Flies were tested with all sweeteners in 2 assays that measured their taste reactivity (proboscis extension assay) and their ingestive preferences (free roaming ingestion choice test). A total of 21 sweeteners, comprised of 11 high-potency sweeteners, 2 amino acids, 5 sugars, 2 sugar alcohols, and a sweet salt (PbCl2), were tested in both assays. We found that wild-type Drosophila responded appetitively to most high-potency sweeteners preferred by humans, even those not considered sweet by rodents or new world monkeys. The similarities in taste preferences for sweeteners suggest that frugivorous/omnivorous apes and flies have evolved promiscuous carbohydrate taste detectors with similar affinities for myriad high-potency sweeteners. Whether these perceptual parallels are the result of convergent evolution of saccharide receptor–binding mechanisms remains to be determined.

Keywords: comparative taste; convergent evolution; detection; high-potency sweeteners; ingestion; taste

Journal Article.  4497 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Molecular and Cell Biology

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