Nutritional value-dependent and nutritional value-independent effects on Drosophila melanogaster larval behavior

Chem Senses. 2012 Oct;37(8):711-21. doi: 10.1093/chemse/bjs055. Epub 2012 Jun 13.


Gustatory stimuli allow an organism not only to orient in its environment toward energy-rich food sources to maintain nutrition but also to avoid unpleasant or even poisonous substrates. For both mammals and insects, sugars-perceived as "sweet"-potentially predict nutritional benefit. Interestingly, even Drosophila adult flies are attracted to most high-potency sweeteners preferred by humans. However, the gustatory information of a sugar may be misleading as some sugars, although perceived as "sweet," cannot be metabolized. Accordingly, in adult Drosophila, a postingestive system that additionally evaluates the nutritional benefit of an ingested sugar has been shown to exist. By using a set of seven different sugars, which either offer (fructose, sucrose, glucose, maltodextrin, and sorbitol) or lack (xylose and arabinose) nutritional benefit, we show that Drosophila, at the larval stage, can perceive and evaluate sugars based on both nutrition-dependent and -independent qualities. In detail, we find that larval survival and feeding mainly depend on the nutritional value of a particular sugar. In contrast, larval choice behavior and learning are regulated in a more complex way by nutrition value-dependent and nutrition value-independent information. The simplicity of the larval neuronal circuits and their accessibility to genetic manipulation may ultimately allow one to identify the neuronal and molecular basis of the larval sugar perception systems described here behaviorally.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Carbohydrates / administration & dosage*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology*
  • Larva / physiology
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Nutritive Value*
  • Odorants / analysis
  • Taste / physiology*
  • Taste Perception


  • Carbohydrates