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Through analysis of the Drosophila ionotropic receptors (IRs), a family of variant ionotropic glutamate receptors, we reveal that most IRs are expressed in peripheral neuron populations in diverse gustatory organs in larvae and adults. We characterise IR56d, which defines two anatomically-distinct neuron classes in the proboscis: one responds to carbonated solutions and fatty acids while the other represents a subset of sugar- and fatty acid-sensing cells. Mutational analysis indicates that IR56d, together with the broadly-expressed co-receptors IR25a and IR76b, is essential for physiological responses to carbonation and fatty acids, but not sugars. We further demonstrate that carbonation and fatty acids both promote IR56d-dependent attraction of flies, but through different behavioural outputs. Our work provides a toolkit for investigating taste functions of IRs, defines a subset of these receptors required for carbonation sensing, and illustrates how the gustatory system uses combinatorial expression of sensory molecules in distinct neurons to coordinate behaviour.

Original publication




Journal article


Nat Commun

Publication Date





Animals, Behavior, Animal, Carbonates, Drosophila Proteins, Drosophila melanogaster, Fatty Acids, Neurons, Receptors, Ionotropic Glutamate, Taste