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Elife. 2018 Oct 11;7. pii: e37167. doi: 10.7554/eLife.37167.

A complex peripheral code for salt taste in Drosophila.

Author information

Department of Zoology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.
Graduate Program in Neuroscience, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.
Engineering Physics Program, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.
Contributed equally


Each taste modality is generally encoded by a single, molecularly defined, population of sensory cells. However, salt stimulates multiple taste pathways in mammals and insects, suggesting a more complex code for salt taste. Here, we examine salt coding in Drosophila. After creating a comprehensive molecular map comprised of five discrete sensory neuron classes across the fly labellum, we find that four are activated by salt: two exhibiting characteristics of 'low salt' cells, and two 'high salt' classes. Behaviorally, low salt attraction depends primarily on 'sweet' neurons, with additional input from neurons expressing the ionotropic receptor IR94e. High salt avoidance is mediated by 'bitter' neurons and a population of glutamatergic neurons expressing Ppk23. Interestingly, the impact of these glutamatergic neurons depends on prior salt consumption. These results support a complex model for salt coding in flies that combinatorially integrates inputs from across cell types to afford robust and flexible salt behaviors.


D. melanogaster; feeding behaviour; gustatory system; neuroscience; salt taste

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