Nav: Home

Ability to taste RNA speeds the growth and increases survival of fruit fly larvae

August 07, 2018

Fruit fly larvae can taste ribonucleosides, the building blocks of gene transcripts, according to a new study publishing on August 7 in the open-access journal PLOS Biology by Hubert Amrein and Dushyant Mishra of Texas A&M Health Science Center and their colleagues. Moreover, the ability to detect ribonucleosides in the environment helps promote the rapid growth needed by developing larvae and dramatically increases their survival.

Fats, proteins, and carbohydrates make up the bulk of calorically rich macronutrients sought out by animals of all kinds. Taste receptors are generally thought to be attuned to identifying these compounds in the environment, allowing organisms to distinguish them from unpalatable and harmful compounds, which by contrast are usually bitter. Animals also need a fourth major macronutrient class, the ribonucleosides and deoxyribonucleosides, which are used to make RNA and DNA, but because animals can build their own ribonucleosides from carbohydrates and proteins, they had not previously been thought to be sensed by taste receptors.

While testing the ability of fruit fly larvae to detect a variety of sugars, the authors discovered their strong interest in consuming ribose, a sugar component of RNA, as well as RNA itself. The larvae were found to detect these compounds using previously uncharacterized members of the Gustatory Receptor (Gr) protein receptor family, a subfamily called Gr28. Laval taste neurons expressing members of Gr28 were activated by ribose and RNA (but not deoxyribose), and when Gr28 genes were transferred to sugar sensing taste neurons that don't normally express them, these neurons were also activated by ribose and RNA.

This taste for RNA is not just a luxury; the authors found that larvae given food from which ribonucleosides were excluded fared worse than those grown on whole medium, and larvae lacking Gr28 receptors grew slower and had poor survival rates than those with them.

Even though the body can synthesize them, the ability to detect these compounds in the environment provides an advantage to a rapidly growing organism such as the fruit fly larva, the authors argue, since the larva must increase its body weight by 200-fold in only a few days. "We hypothesize that the ability to taste RNA evolved because ingestion, rather than de novo synthesis, provides a survival advantage during this period of extreme growth," Amrein said.
-end-
In your coverage please use this URL to provide access to the freely available article in PLOS Biology: http://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.2005570

Citation: Mishra D, Thorne N, Miyamoto C, Jagge C, Amrein H (2018) The taste of ribonucleosides: Novel macronutrients essential for larval growth are sensed by Drosophila gustatory receptor proteins. PLoS Biol 16(8): e2005570. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.2005570

Image Caption: A Drosophila third instar larva feeds on a strawberry. Macronutrients such as sugar are vital for fruit flies during the larval stage of development where they increase their weight up to several hundred-fold in a matter of days.

Image Credit: Hubert Amrein, amrein@tamhsc.edu

Funding: National Institute of Health https://www.nidcd.nih.gov (grant number NIH-1R21 DC015327). This grant was awarded to HA. The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. National Institute of Health https://www.nidcd.nih.gov (grant number NIH-1RO1GMDC05606). This grant was awarded to HA. The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

PLOS

Related Neurons Articles:

A molecule that directs neurons
A research team coordinated by the University of Trento studied a mass of brain cells, the habenula, linked to disorders like autism, schizophrenia and depression.
Shaping the social networks of neurons
Identification of a protein complex that attracts or repels nerve cells during development.
With these neurons, extinguishing fear is its own reward
The same neurons responsible for encoding reward also form new memories to suppress fearful ones, according to new research by scientists at The Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at MIT.
How do we get so many different types of neurons in our brain?
SMU (Southern Methodist University) researchers have discovered another layer of complexity in gene expression, which could help explain how we're able to have so many billions of neurons in our brain.
These neurons affect how much you do, or don't, want to eat
University of Arizona researchers have identified a network of neurons that coordinate with other brain regions to influence eating behaviors.
Mood neurons mature during adolescence
Researchers have discovered a mysterious group of neurons in the amygdala -- a key center for emotional processing in the brain -- that stay in an immature, prenatal developmental state throughout childhood.
Connecting neurons in the brain
Leuven researchers uncover new mechanisms of brain development that determine when, where and how strongly distinct brain cells interconnect.
The salt-craving neurons
Pass the potato chips, please! New research discovers neural circuits that regulate craving and satiation for salty tastes.
When neurons are out of shape, antidepressants may not work
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the most commonly prescribed medication for major depressive disorder (MDD), yet scientists still do not understand why the treatment does not work in nearly thirty percent of patients with MDD.
Losing neurons can sometimes not be that bad
Current thinking about Alzheimer's disease is that neuronal cell death in the brain is to blame for the cognitive havoc caused by the disease.
More Neurons News and Neurons Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Reinvention
Change is hard, but it's also an opportunity to discover and reimagine what you thought you knew. From our economy, to music, to even ourselves–this hour TED speakers explore the power of reinvention. Guests include OK Go lead singer Damian Kulash Jr., former college gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, and entrepreneur Nick Hanauer.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 6: Strange Times
Covid has disrupted the most basic routines of our days and nights. But in the middle of a conversation about how to fight the virus, we find a place impervious to the stalled plans and frenetic demands of the outside world. It's a very different kind of front line, where urgent work means moving slow, and time is marked out in tiny pre-planned steps. Then, on a walk through the woods, we consider how the tempo of our lives affects our minds and discover how the beats of biology shape our bodies. This episode was produced with help from Molly Webster and Tracie Hunte. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.