Design of the larval chemosensory system

Adv Exp Med Biol. 2008;628:69-81. doi: 10.1007/978-0-387-78261-4_5.


Given that smell and taste are vital senses for most animal species, it is not surprising that chemosensation has become a strong focus in neurobiological research. Much of what we know today about how the brain "mirrors" the chemical environment has derived from simple organisms like Drosophila. This is because their chemosensory system includes only a fraction of the cell number of the mammalian system, yet often exhibits the same basic design. Recent studies aimed at establishing fruitfly larvae as a particularly simple model for smell and taste have analyzed the expression patterns of olfactory and gustatory receptors, the circuitry of the chemosensory system and its behavioral output. Surprisingly, the larval olfactory system shares the organization of its adult counterpart, though comprising much reduced cell numbers. It thus indeed provides a "minimal" model system of general importance. Comparing adult and larval chemosensory systems raises interesting questions about their functional capabilities and about the processes underlying its transformation through metamorphosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chemoreceptor Cells / growth & development
  • Chemoreceptor Cells / metabolism*
  • Drosophila / genetics*
  • Drosophila / growth & development
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics
  • Drosophila Proteins / physiology
  • Gene Expression Profiling*
  • In Situ Hybridization / methods
  • Larva / genetics
  • Larva / growth & development
  • Models, Biological
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / genetics
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / physiology
  • Receptors, Odorant / genetics
  • Receptors, Odorant / physiology


  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • Receptors, Odorant
  • gustatory receptor, Drosophila