Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Psst! Coffee drinkers: Fruit flies have something to tell you about caffeine

19.09.2006
In their hunt for genes and proteins that explain how animals discern bitter from sweet, a team of Johns Hopkins researchers began by testing whether mutant fruit flies prefer eating sugar over sugar laced with caffeine. Using a simple behavioral test, the researchers discovered that a single protein missing from the fly-equivalent of our taste buds caused them to ignore caffeine's taste and consume the caffeine as if it were not there.

"No, you won't see jittery Drosophila flitting past your bananas to slurp your morning java anytime soon," says Craig Montell, Ph.D., a professor of biological chemistry in the Institute of Basic Biomedical Sciences at Hopkins. "The bottom line is that our mutant flies willingly drink caffeine-laced liquids and foods because they can't taste its bitterness -- their taste receptor cells don't detect it."

The Hopkins flies, genetically mutated to lack a certain taste receptor protein, have been the focus of studies to sort out how animals taste and why we like the taste of some things but are turned off by the taste of others.

By color-coding sweet and bitter substances eaten by fruit flies and examining the coloring that shows up in their translucent bellies, the Hopkins team hoped to learn whether flies missing a specific "taste-receptor" protein changed their taste preferences.

... more about:
»Gr66a »Montell »caffeine »flies »receptor

"Normally," Montell explains, "when given the choice between sweet and bitter substances, flies avoid caffeine and other bitter-tasting chemicals. But flies missing this particular taste-receptor protein, called Gr66a, consume caffeine because their taste-receptor cells don't fire in response to it."

The discovery, which is the first ever example of a protein required for both caffeine tasting and caffeine-induced behavior, will be published Sept. 19 in Current Biology.

For the study, Montell and his colleagues kept 50 fruit flies away from food overnight and for breakfast gave the starved flies 90 minutes to eat as much as they wanted of either or both of two concoctions: a blue-colored mixture of sugar and agar and a red-colored mixture of caffeine, sugar and agar. The researchers then flipped the flies onto their backs and looked at the color of their bellies to see what they ate - blue indicating a preference for eating sugar, red indicating a preference for bitter caffeine, and purple indicating no preference.

Flies missing the critical taste receptor protein Gr66a consumed the bitter caffeine solution to the same extent as the sugar-only solution. Montell and colleagues conclude that Gr66a is crucial for the normal caffeine avoidance behavior and without it, flies are seemingly indifferent to the bitter taste.

The researchers went on to examine whether this indifference to bitter was due to the taste nerves on the fly's "tongue" or some malfunction in the fly's brain. Chemical stimulants trigger taste receptor cells to send an electrical current to the brain where the information is processed and often leads to a change in behavior, such as the decision to eat or avoid.

With fine tools, the research team recorded electrical currents in those cells known to contain the Gr66a caffeine taste receptor in the fly's equivalent of the taste buds - dubbed the taste bristles.

Applying sugar to the taste bristles of normal flies, or to mutant flies missing the Gr66a protein, causes the neurons to produce electrical current "spikes" at a frequency of about 20 spikes per second. Other bitter compounds like quinine generated electrical current spikes at about the same frequency in the mutants.

Only flies missing the Gr66a taste receptor protein were unable to generate any current spikes when given caffeine. "This is a clear demonstration that Gr66a is functioning in the taste receptor cells and is not a 'general sensor' for bitter compounds, but is required more specifically for the caffeine response," says Montell.

"This indicates that flies have different receptors for the response to other types of bitter compounds," he says.

"We also tested whether the flies avoided the related bitter compounds found in tea and cocoa -- chocolate -- and found that Gr66a also is required for the response to the compound in tea, but not for the one in chocolate," he says.

Fruit flies often are used as experimental organisms because they grow quickly and are easy to manipulate genetically. Now that Montell and his colleagues have a mutant fly that is unable to taste caffeine, they hope to further examine the other genes and molecules involved in the caffeine response and better understand the biochemistry behind caffeine-induced behavior in other organisms, namely humans.

Audrey Huang | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/cmontell/
http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/ibbs/index.html

Further reports about: Gr66a Montell caffeine flies receptor

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht The irresistible fragrance of dying vinegar flies
16.08.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für chemische Ökologie

nachricht How protein islands form
15.08.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

Im Focus: Scientists improve forecast of increasing hazard on Ecuadorian volcano

Researchers from the University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, the Italian Space Agency (ASI), and the Instituto Geofisico--Escuela Politecnica Nacional (IGEPN) of Ecuador, showed an increasing volcanic danger on Cotopaxi in Ecuador using a powerful technique known as Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR).

The Andes region in which Cotopaxi volcano is located is known to contain some of the world's most serious volcanic hazard. A mid- to large-size eruption has...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New thruster design increases efficiency for future spaceflight

16.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Transporting spin: A graphene and boron nitride heterostructure creates large spin signals

16.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

A new method for the 3-D printing of living tissues

16.08.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>