Time to taste
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Circadian clocks keep time in the digestive, circulatory, reproductive, excretory and nervous systems even in absence of external cues. Central oscillators in the brain control locomotor activity of organisms ranging from fruit flies to man, but the functions of the clocks in peripheral nervous system are not well understood. The presence of autonomous peripheral oscillators in the major taste organ of Drosophila, the proboscis, prompted us to test whether gustatory responses are under control of the circadian clock. We find that synchronous rhythms in physiological and behavioral responses to attractive and aversive tastants are driven by oscillators in gustatory receptor neurons (GRNs); primary sensory neurons that carry taste information from the proboscis to the brain. During the middle of the night, high levels of G protein-coupled receptor kinase 2 (GPRK2) in the GRNs suppresses tastant-evoked responses. Flies with disrupted gustatory clocks are hyperphagic and hyperactive, recapitulating behaviors typically seen under the stress of starvation. Temporal plasticity in innate behaviors should offer adaptive advantages to flies. In this Extra View article we discuss how oscillators inside GRNs regulate responsiveness to tastants and influence feeding, metabolism and general activity.
author list (cited authors)
Chatterjee, A., & Hardin, P. E.