A conserved odorant binding protein is required for essential amino acid detection in Drosophila

Commun Biol. 2019 Nov 22;2:425. doi: 10.1038/s42003-019-0673-2. eCollection 2019.


Animals need to detect in the food essential amino acids that they cannot synthesize. We found that the odorant binding protein OBP19b, which is highly expressed in Drosophila melanogaster taste sensilla, is necessary for the detection of several amino acids including the essential l-phenylalanine. The recombinant OBP19b protein was produced and characterized for its binding properties: it stereoselectively binds to several amino acids. Using a feeding-choice assay, we found that OBP19b is necessary for detecting l-phenylalanine and l-glutamine, but not l-alanine or D-phenylalanine. We mapped the cells expressing OBP19b and compared the electrophysiological responses of a single taste sensillum to several amino acids: OBP19b mutant flies showed a reduced response compared to control flies when tested to preferred amino acids, but not to the other ones. OBP19b is well conserved in phylogenetically distant species suggesting that this protein is necessary for detection of specific amino acids in insects.

Keywords: Carrier proteins; Feeding behaviour.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids / chemistry
  • Amino Acids / metabolism
  • Amino Acids, Essential / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Conserved Sequence
  • Drosophila / genetics
  • Drosophila / metabolism
  • Electrophysiological Phenomena
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Gene Expression
  • Receptors, Odorant / chemistry
  • Receptors, Odorant / genetics
  • Receptors, Odorant / metabolism*


  • Amino Acids
  • Amino Acids, Essential
  • Receptors, Odorant
  • odorant-binding protein