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Neuron. 2003 Jul 3;39(1):133-46.

Contribution of Drosophila DEG/ENaC genes to salt taste.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Department of Internal Medicine, Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine, University of Iowa, Iowa City 52242, USA.


The ability to detect salt is critical for the survival of terrestrial animals. Based on amiloride-dependent inhibition, the receptors that detect salt have been postulated to be DEG/ENaC channels. We found the Drosophila DEG/ENaC genes Pickpocket11 (ppk11) and Pickpocket19 (ppk19) expressed in the larval taste-sensing terminal organ and in adults on the taste bristles of the labelum, the legs, and the wing margins. When we disrupted PPK11 or PPK19 function, larvae lost their ability to discriminate low concentrations of Na(+) or K(+) from water, and the electrophysiologic responses to low salt concentrations were attenuated. In both larvae and adults, disrupting PPK11 or PPK19 affected the behavioral response to high salt concentrations. In contrast, the response of larvae to sucrose, pH 3, and several odors remained intact. These results indicate that the DEG/ENaC channels PPK11 and PPK19 play a key role in detecting Na(+) and K(+) salts.

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