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A Drosophila Gustatory Receptor Required for Strychnine Sensation


Strychnine is a potent, naturally occurring neurotoxin that effectively protects plants from animal pests by deterring feeding behavior. In insects, such as the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, bitter-tasting aversive compounds are detected primarily through a family of gustatory receptors (GRs), which are expressed in gustatory receptor neurons. We previously described multiple GRs that eliminate the behavioral avoidance to all bitter compounds tested, with the exception of strychnine. Here, we report the identity of a strychnine receptor, referred to as GR47a. We generated a mutation in Gr47a and found that it eliminated strychnine repulsion and strychnine-induced action potentials. GR47a was narrowly tuned, as the responses to other avoidance compounds were unaffected in the mutant animals. This analysis supports an emerging model that Drosophila GRs fall broadly into two specificity classes-one class is comprised of core receptors that are broadly required, whereas the other class, which includes GR47a, consists of narrowly tuned receptors that define chemical specificity.

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