Regulation of Gustatory Physiology and Appetitive Behavior by the Drosophila Circadian Clock Academic Article uri icon


  • BACKGROUND: Circadian regulation of chemosensory processes is common in animals, but little is known about how circadian clocks control chemosensory systems or the consequences of rhythms in chemosensory system function. Taste is a major chemosensory gate used to decide whether or not an animal will eat, and the main taste organ in Drosophila, the proboscis, harbors autonomous circadian oscillators. Here we examine gustatory physiology, tastant-evoked appetitive behavior, and food ingestion to understand clock-dependent regulation of the Drosophila gustatory system. RESULTS: Here we report that single-unit responses from labellar gustatory receptor neurons (GRNs) to attractive and aversive tastants show diurnal and circadian rhythms in spike amplitude, frequency, and duration across different classes of gustatory sensilla. Rhythms in electrophysiological responses parallel behavioral rhythms in proboscis extension reflex. Molecular oscillators in GRNs are necessary and sufficient for rhythms in gustatory responses and drive rhythms in G protein-coupled receptor kinase 2 (GPRK2) expression that mediate rhythms in taste sensitivity. Eliminating clock function in certain GRNs increases feeding and locomotor activity, mimicking a starvation response. CONCLUSIONS: Circadian clocks in GRNs control neuronal output and drive behavioral rhythms in taste responses that peak at a time of day when feeding is maximal in flies. Our results argue that oscillations in GPRK2 levels drive rhythms in gustatory physiology and behavior and that GRN clocks repress feeding. The similarity in gustatory system organization and feeding behavior in flies and mammals, as well as diurnal changes in taste sensitivity in humans, suggest that our results are relevant to the situation in humans.

author list (cited authors)

  • Chatterjee, A., Tanoue, S., Houl, J. H., & Hardin, P. E.

citation count

  • 47

publication date

  • February 2010