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Tracking the Taste
02 August 2015

Tracking the Taste

Fruit fly males make for jealous mates, going to great lengths to ensure they alone sire a female’s offspring. After mating, males discourage any future rivals by leaving behind an anti-aphrodisiac molecule, known as a taste pheromone. Relatively little is known about how these chemical signals are perceived by insects, but this is changing, thanks to a recent study of this mating deterrent in flies. By selectively inactivating neurons [nerve cells] and testing the flies’ response to the taste pheromone, researchers were able to track the neurons involved in processing the signal, from receptors in the flies’ legs to cells in their brains, highlighted here. They also identified a crucial signalling molecule, tachykinin, without which males can't perceive the pheromone. Shedding light on the still mysterious mechanisms of taste perception in insects, their work also raises the possibility of one day harnessing the effects of tachykinin to control fly populations.

Written by Emmanuelle Briolat

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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