Alkaline taste sensation through the alkaliphile chloride channel in Drosophila

Nat Metab. 2023 Mar;5(3):466-480. doi: 10.1038/s42255-023-00765-3. Epub 2023 Mar 20.


The sense of taste is an important sentinel governing what should or should not be ingested by an animal, with high pH sensation playing a critical role in food selection. Here we explore the molecular identities of taste receptors detecting the basic pH of food using Drosophila melanogaster as a model. We identify a chloride channel named alkaliphile (Alka), which is both necessary and sufficient for aversive taste responses to basic food. Alka forms a high-pH-gated chloride channel and is specifically expressed in a subset of gustatory receptor neurons (GRNs). Optogenetic activation of alka-expressing GRNs is sufficient to suppress attractive feeding responses to sucrose. Conversely, inactivation of these GRNs causes severe impairments in the aversion to high pH. Altogether, our discovery of Alka as an alkaline taste receptor lays the groundwork for future research on alkaline taste sensation in other animals.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chloride Channels / genetics
  • Drosophila Proteins* / metabolism
  • Drosophila melanogaster
  • Drosophila* / metabolism
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / genetics
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / metabolism
  • Taste / physiology


  • Chloride Channels
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Receptors, Cell Surface