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  • Meeting a threat of the Anthropocene: Taste avoidance of metal ions by Drosophila. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America Xiao, S., Baik, L. S., Shang, X., Carlson, J. R. 2022; 119 (25): e2204238119


    The Anthropocene Epoch poses a critical challenge for organisms: they must cope with new threats at a rapid rate. These threats include toxic chemical compounds released into the environment by human activities. Here, we examine elevated concentrations of heavy metal ions as an example of anthropogenic stressors. We find that the fruit fly Drosophila avoids nine metal ions when present at elevated concentrations that the flies experienced rarely, if ever, until the Anthropocene. We characterize the avoidance of feeding and egg laying on metal ions, and we identify receptors, neurons, and taste organs that contribute to this avoidance. Different subsets of taste receptors, including members of both Ir (Ionotropic receptor) and Gr (Gustatory receptor) families contribute to the avoidance of different metal ions. We find that metal ions activate certain bitter-sensing neurons and inhibit sugar-sensing neurons. Some behavioral responses are mediated largely through neurons of the pharynx. Feeding avoidance remains stable over 10 generations of exposure to copper and zinc ions. Some responses to metal ions are conserved across diverse dipteran species, including the mosquito Aedes albopictus. Our results suggest mechanisms that may be essential to insects as they face challenges from environmental changes in the Anthropocene.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.2204238119

    View details for PubMedID 35700364

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC9231609

  • Robust olfactory responses in the absence of odorant binding proteins. eLife Xiao, S., Sun, J. S., Carlson, J. R. 2019; 8


    Odorant binding proteins (Obps) are expressed at extremely high levels in the antennae of insects, and have long been believed essential for carrying hydrophobic odorants to odor receptors. Previously we found that when one functional type of olfactory sensillum in Drosophila was depleted of its sole abundant Obp, it retained a robust olfactory response (Larter et al., 2016). Here we have deleted all the Obp genes that are abundantly expressed in the antennal basiconic sensilla. All of six tested sensillum types responded robustly to odors of widely diverse chemical or temporal structure. One mutant gave a greater physiological and behavioral response to an odorant that affects oviposition. Our results support a model in which many sensilla can respond to odorants in the absence of Obps, and many Obps are not essential for olfactory response, but that some Obps can modulate olfactory physiology and the behavior that it drives.

    View details for DOI 10.7554/eLife.51040

    View details for PubMedID 31651397

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC6814364