RNA Taste Is Conserved in Dipteran Insects. Academic Article uri icon


  • BACKGROUND: Ribonucleosides and RNA are an underappreciated nutrient group essential during Drosophila larval development and growth. Detection of these nutrients requires at least one of the 6 closely related taste receptors encoded by the Gr28 genes, one of the most conserved insect taste receptor subfamilies. OBJECTIVES: We investigated whether blow fly larvae and mosquito larvae, which shared the last ancestor with Drosophila about 65 and 260 million years ago, respectively, can taste RNA and ribose. We also tested whether the Gr28 homologous genes of the mosquitoes Aedes aegypti and Anopheles gambiae can sense these nutrients when expressed in transgenic Drosophila larvae. METHODS: Taste preference in blow flies was examined by adapting a 2-choice preference assay that has been well-established for Drosophila larvae. For the mosquito Aedes aegypti, we developed a new 2-choice preference assay that accommodates the aquatic environment of these insect larvae. Finally, we identified Gr28 homologs in these species and expressed them in Drosophila melanogaster to determine their potential function as RNA receptors. RESULTS: Larvae of the blow fly Cochliomyia macellaria and Lucilia cuprina are strongly attracted to RNA (0.5 mg/mL) in the 2-choice feeding assays (P < 0.05). Similarly, the mosquito Aedes aegypti larvae showed a strong preference for RNA (2.5 mg/mL) in an aquatic 2-choice feeding assay. Moreover, when Gr28 homologs of Aedes or Anopheles mosquitoes are expressed in appetitive tasteneurons of Drosophila melanogaster larvae lacking their Gr28 genes, preference for RNA (0.5 mg/mL) and ribose (0.1 M) is rescued (P < 0.05). CONCLUSIONS: The appetitive taste for RNA and ribonucleosides in insects emerged about 260 million years ago, the time mosquitoes and fruit flies diverged from their last common ancestor. Like sugar receptors, receptors for RNA have been highly conserved during insect evolution, suggesting that RNA is a critical nutrient for fast-growing insect larvae.

published proceedings

  • J Nutr

altmetric score

  • 1.25

author list (cited authors)

  • Fujii, S., Ahn, J., Jagge, C., Shetty, V., Janes, C., Mohanty, A., ... Amrein, H.

citation count

  • 0

complete list of authors

  • Fujii, Shinsuke||Ahn, Ji-Eun||Jagge, Christopher||Shetty, Vinaya||Janes, Christopher||Mohanty, Avha||Slotman, Michel||Adelman, Zach N||Amrein, Hubert

publication date

  • May 2023