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Nat Commun. 2015 Nov 16;6:8867. doi: 10.1038/ncomms9867.

The full repertoire of Drosophila gustatory receptors for detecting an aversive compound.

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Department of Oral Biology, BK21 PLUS Project Yonsei University College of Dentistry, Yonsei-ro 50-1, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul 120-752, Korea.
Division of Functional Food Research, Korea Food Research Institute, Seongnam, Gyeonggi-do 463-746, Korea.
Department of Bio and Fermentation Convergence Technology, Kookmin University, Seoul 136-702, Korea.
Department of Pharmacology, Brain Korea 21 PLUS project for Medical Sciences Yonsei University College of Medicine, Yonsei-ro 50-1, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul 120-752, Korea.
Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, Neuroscience Research Institute, University of California, Santa Barbara, California 93106, USA.


The ability to detect toxic compounds in foods is essential for animal survival. However, the minimal subunit composition of gustatory receptors required for sensing aversive chemicals in Drosophila is unknown. Here we report that three gustatory receptors, GR8a, GR66a and GR98b function together in the detection of L-canavanine, a plant-derived insecticide. Ectopic co-expression of Gr8a and Gr98b in Gr66a-expressing, bitter-sensing gustatory receptor neurons (GRNs) confers responsiveness to L-canavanine. Furthermore, misexpression of all three Grs enables salt- or sweet-sensing GRNs to respond to L-canavanine. Introduction of these Grs in sweet-sensing GRNs switches L-canavanine from an aversive to an attractive compound. Co-expression of GR8a, GR66a and GR98b in Drosophila S2 cells induces an L-canavanine-activated nonselective cation conductance. We conclude that three GRs collaborate to produce a functional L-canavanine receptor. Thus, our results clarify the full set of GRs underlying the detection of a toxic tastant that drives avoidance behaviour in an insect.

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