Chemical senses

A specific receptor site for glycerol, a new sweet tastant for Drosophila: structure-taste relationship of glycerol in the labellar sugar receptor cell.

PMID 15466816


Glycerol, a linear triol, is a sweet tastant for mammals but it has not previously been recognized to stimulate the sense of taste in insects. Here we show by electrophysiological experimentation that it effectively stimulates the labellar sugar receptor cell of Drosophila. We also show that in accord with the electrophysiological observations, the behavioral feeding response to glycerol is dose dependent. 3-Amino-1,2-propanediol inhibited the response of the sugar receptor cell to glycerol, specifically and competitively, while it had almost no effect on responses to sucrose, D-glucose, D-fructose and trehalose. In the null Drosophila mutant for the trehalose receptor (DeltaEP19), the response to glycerol showed no change, in sharp contrast with a characteristic drastic decrease in the response to trehalose. The glycerol concentration-response curves for I-type and L-type labellar hairs were statistically indistinguishable, while those for sucrose, D-glucose, D-fructose and trehalose were clearly different. These all indicate the presence of a specific receptor site for glycerol. The glycerol site was characterized by comparing the effectiveness of various derivatives of glycerol. Based on this structure-taste relationship of glycerol, a model is proposed for the glycerol site including three subsites and two steric barriers, which cannot accommodate carbon-ring containing sugars such as D-glucose.

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(±)-3-Amino-1,2-propanediol, 97%