Pharyngeal sense organs drive robust sugar consumption in Drosophila

Nat Commun. 2015 Mar 25;6:6667. doi: 10.1038/ncomms7667.


The fly pharyngeal sense organs lie at the transition between external and internal nutrient-sensing mechanisms. Here we investigate the function of pharyngeal sweet gustatory receptor neurons, demonstrating that they express a subset of the nine previously identified sweet receptors and respond to stimulation with a panel of sweet compounds. We show that pox-neuro (poxn) mutants lacking taste function in the legs and labial palps have intact pharyngeal sweet taste, which is both necessary and sufficient to drive preferred consumption of sweet compounds by prolonging ingestion. Moreover, flies putatively lacking all sweet taste show little preference for nutritive or non-nutritive sugars in a short-term feeding assay. Together, our data demonstrate that pharyngeal sense organs play an important role in directing sustained consumption of sweet compounds, and suggest that post-ingestive sugar sensing does not effectively drive food choice in a simple short-term feeding paradigm.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drosophila
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology
  • Food Preferences / physiology*
  • Mutation
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics
  • Neurons
  • Non-Nutritive Sweeteners*
  • Nutritive Sweeteners*
  • Paired Box Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Pharynx*
  • Taste / physiology*
  • Taste Buds / physiology*


  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Non-Nutritive Sweeteners
  • Nutritive Sweeteners
  • Paired Box Transcription Factors
  • Poxn protein, Drosophila