Coupled Sensing of Hunger and Thirst Signals Balances Sugar and Water Consumption

Cell. 2016 Aug 11;166(4):855-866. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2016.06.046. Epub 2016 Jul 28.


Hunger and thirst are ancient homeostatic drives for food and water consumption. Although molecular and neural mechanisms underlying these drives are currently being uncovered, less is known about how hunger and thirst interact. Here, we use molecular genetic, behavioral, and anatomical studies in Drosophila to identify four neurons that modulate food and water consumption. Activation of these neurons promotes sugar consumption and restricts water consumption, whereas inactivation promotes water consumption and restricts sugar consumption. By calcium imaging studies, we show that these neurons are directly regulated by a hormone signal of nutrient levels and by osmolality. Finally, we identify a hormone receptor and an osmolality-sensitive ion channel that underlie this regulation. Thus, a small population of neurons senses internal signals of nutrient and water availability to balance sugar and water consumption. Our results suggest an elegant mechanism by which interoceptive neurons oppositely regulate homeostatic drives to eat and drink.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drosophila Proteins / metabolism
  • Drosophila melanogaster
  • Homeostasis
  • Hunger
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Osmolar Concentration
  • Receptors, Glucagon / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Sucrose / metabolism
  • Thirst
  • Transient Receptor Potential Channels / metabolism


  • AKHR protein, Drosophila
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Nan protein, Drosophila
  • Receptors, Glucagon
  • Transient Receptor Potential Channels
  • Sucrose