Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Flies prefer fizzy drinks

30.08.2007
Taste cells found specific to carbonation, UC Berkeley neuroscientists report

While you may not catch a fly sipping Perrier, the insect has specialized taste cells for carbonated water that probably encourage it to binge on food with growing microorganisms. Yeast and bacteria both produce carbon dioxide (CO2) when they feast, and CO2 dissolves readily in water to produce seltzer or soda water.

This is one of the first, if not the only taste sensation discovered in animals beyond the five that humans taste - sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami, or savory.

"This was unexpected, because fruit flies also smell CO2 and they avoid it," said neurobiologist Kristin Scott, assistant professor of molecular and cell biology at UC Berkeley. "One way that we like to think of it is that flies seek the right amount of rottenness - if fruit is only half rotten, producing a little CO2, it's good; if too rotten, it gives off a lot of CO2 and is bad tasting. They seek a balance."

... more about:
»CO2 »Carbon »carbonation »five »fly »receptor »yeast

Scott and her UC Berkeley colleagues, graduate students Walter Fischler, technician Priscilla Kong and postdoctoral fellow Sunanda Marella - all in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology and the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute - report their discovery in the Aug. 30 issue of Nature.

Mammals have five known types of taste receptors, though there may be more to discover, Scott said. Flies may have five distinct receptors also, but not the same ones mammals have. While Scott has shown that fruit flies can detect sweet and bitter compounds, and now carbonation, she has discounted their ability to taste umami and said that their ability to taste sour compounds is questionable. She and her lab continue to investigate other unknown taste modalities in fruit flies, which could be any of a number of tastes, such as salt or alcohol.

The discovery came when Fischler, frustrated that he could not find a chemical that stimulated an unknown type of fruit fly taste cell he had isolated, tested the cells' reaction to a drop of Samuel Adams beer. Surprised by a positive response, he tried to narrow down the taste preference to one of the many chemicals in beer. Flat beer and dry yeast, for example, did not work. That's when he discovered the leftover bottle of Calistoga mineral water.

As he was searching for beer components to test, he said, "I opened the refrigerator and looked in, when a light bulb went on. Calistoga would be a great way of testing CO2."

The rest is history. Dry ice - frozen CO2 - produced a strong response, while high levels of gaseous CO2 produced a weak response in the taste cells. Sodium bicarbonate in a basic solution that does not contain CO2 bubbles did not work; bicarbonate in a solution with CO2 bubbles did. The liquid in which yeast grow, though not the yeast themselves, also elicited a response from the taste cell. These and a few other genetic tests narrowed the taste trigger down to dissolved carbon dioxide.

The preference for carbonation is weak compared with that for sweetness, Scott noted, implying that seltzer enhances taste or makes other tastes more acceptable. This makes sense because CO2 has no nutritional value, but is a byproduct of organisms - yeast and bacteria - that do provide nutrients, she said.

The newly discovered taste sensors for carbonation reside on their own structures, called taste pegs, on the tongue of the fly. While a fruit fly's four other taste cells are perched on the tip of bristles that cover the entire body, the carbonated water taste cells are clustered around the margins of the sponge-like tip of the proboscis, at the base of taste bristles.

Scott investigates taste cells, which are a type of nerve cell, and is characterizing the cells and genes associated with different tastes. So far, she and her laboratory colleagues have identified the sweet and bitter cells and some of the gustatory receptor genes that detect sweet and bitter compounds in fruit flies.

Fischler now is trying to isolate the actual receptor in the CO2-sensing nerve cell that grabs the CO2 molecule and sends a signal to the fly brain that there is carbonation in the food. It will then be possible to see if others, including humans, also have carbonation receptors on taste cells.

"There may be many more taste modalities in humans" than the five known today, said Scott. Even if CO2 is a taste unique to fruit flies, it's discovery suggests that other animals may have taste receptors tuned to important chemicals in their environment, she said, either to avoid them, as is the case with bitter chemicals, or seek them out, as is the case with sugars and CO2.

"Thus, taste modalities may differ according to nutritional needs," she and her colleagues wrote. "Alternatively, CO2 may be an unappreciated taste modality in many organisms."

Robert Sanders | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.berkeley.edu

Further reports about: CO2 Carbon carbonation five fly receptor yeast

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Topologische Quantenchemie
21.07.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Chemische Physik fester Stoffe

nachricht Topological Quantum Chemistry
21.07.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Chemische Physik fester Stoffe

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

Im Focus: The proton precisely weighted

What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.

To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...

Im Focus: On the way to a biological alternative

A bacterial enzyme enables reactions that open up alternatives to key industrial chemical processes

The research team of Prof. Dr. Oliver Einsle at the University of Freiburg's Institute of Biochemistry has long been exploring the functioning of nitrogenase....

Im Focus: The 1 trillion tonne iceberg

Larsen C Ice Shelf rift finally breaks through

A one trillion tonne iceberg - one of the biggest ever recorded -- has calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, after a rift in the ice,...

Im Focus: Laser-cooled ions contribute to better understanding of friction

Physics supports biology: Researchers from PTB have developed a model system to investigate friction phenomena with atomic precision

Friction: what you want from car brakes, otherwise rather a nuisance. In any case, it is useful to know as precisely as possible how friction phenomena arise –...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Closing the Sustainability Circle: Protection of Food with Biobased Materials

21.07.2017 | Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

The technology with a feel for feelings

12.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA looks to solar eclipse to help understand Earth's energy system

21.07.2017 | Earth Sciences

Stanford researchers develop a new type of soft, growing robot

21.07.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Vortex photons from electrons in circular motion

21.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>