Enteric neurons and systemic signals couple nutritional and reproductive status with intestinal homeostasis

Cell Metab. 2011 Jan 5;13(1):92-104. doi: 10.1016/j.cmet.2010.12.010.


The gastrointestinal tract is emerging as a key regulator of appetite and metabolism, but daunting neuroanatomical complexity has hampered identification of the relevant signals. Invertebrate models could provide a simple and genetically amenable alternative, but their autonomic nervous system and its visceral functions remain largely unexplored. Here we develop a quantitative method based on defecation behavior to uncover a central role for the Drosophila intestine in the regulation of nutrient intake, fluid, and ion balance. We then identify a key homeostatic role for autonomic neurons and hormones, including a brain-gut circuit of insulin-producing neurons modulating appetite, a vasopressin-like system essential for fluid homeostasis, and enteric neurons mediating sex peptide-induced changes in intestinal physiology. These conserved mechanisms of visceral control, analogous to those found in the enteric nervous system and hypothalamic/pituitary axis, enable the study of autonomic control in a model organism that has proved instrumental in understanding sensory and motor systems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acid-Base Equilibrium
  • Animals
  • Appetite Regulation / physiology
  • Diet
  • Diuresis
  • Drosophila / metabolism
  • Drosophila / physiology
  • Enteric Nervous System / physiology*
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / innervation*
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / metabolism
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / physiology
  • Gastrointestinal Transit
  • Hemostatics
  • Male
  • Neurons, Efferent / physiology*
  • Reproduction
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / physiology*
  • Sex Attractants / physiology
  • Vasopressins / physiology


  • Hemostatics
  • Sex Attractants
  • Vasopressins