The detection of nutrients, both in food and within the body, is crucial for the regulation of feeding behavior, growth, and metabolism. While the molecular basis for sensing food chemicals by the taste system has been firmly linked to specific taste receptors, relatively little is known about the molecular nature of the sensors that monitor nutrients internally. Recent reports of taste receptors expressed in other organ systems, foremost in the gastrointestinal tract of mammals and insects, has led to the proposition that some taste receptors may also be used as sensors of internal nutrients. Indeed, we provided direct evidence that the Drosophila gustatory receptor 43a (Gr43a) plays a critical role in sensing internal fructose levels in the fly brain. In addition to the brain and the taste system, Gr43a is also expressed in neurons of the proventricular ganglion and the uterus. Here, we discuss the multiple potential roles of Gr43a in the fly. We also provide evidence that its activation in the brain is likely mediated by the neuropeptide Corazonin. Finally, we posit that Gr43a may represent only a precedent for other taste receptors that sense internal nutrients, not only in flies but, quite possibly, in other animals, including mammals.
- Nutrient Sensor