Behavioural analyses of quinine processing in choice, feeding and learning of larval Drosophila

PLoS One. 2012;7(7):e40525. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0040525. Epub 2012 Jul 10.


Gustatory stimuli can support both immediate reflexive behaviour, such as choice and feeding, and can drive internal reinforcement in associative learning. For larval Drosophila, we here provide a first systematic behavioural analysis of these functions with respect to quinine as a study case of a substance which humans report as "tasting bitter". We describe the dose-effect functions for these different kinds of behaviour and find that a half-maximal effect of quinine to suppress feeding needs substantially higher quinine concentrations (2.0 mM) than is the case for internal reinforcement (0.6 mM). Interestingly, in previous studies (Niewalda et al. 2008, Schipanski et al 2008) we had found the reverse for sodium chloride and fructose/sucrose, such that dose-effect functions for those tastants were shifted towards lower concentrations for feeding as compared to reinforcement, arguing that the differences in dose-effect function between these behaviours do not reflect artefacts of the types of assay used. The current results regarding quinine thus provide a starting point to investigate how the gustatory system is organized on the cellular and/or molecular level to result in different behavioural tuning curves towards a bitter tastant.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects*
  • Choice Behavior / drug effects*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drosophila
  • Larva
  • Quinine / administration & dosage
  • Quinine / pharmacology*
  • Reinforcement, Psychology
  • Sucrose / pharmacology
  • Taste / drug effects


  • Sucrose
  • Quinine