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The taste of volatiles: perception of odors through taste organs in Drosophila melanogaster (TASTEVOL)
Start date: Oct 17, 2013, End date: Oct 16, 2015 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Taste and olfaction share the same function: detect chemicals in the external world or in food. Despite this common functionality, both systems are designed completely differently both at the level of the sensory receptors and in the way information is mapped into the brain. As such, they have been studied separately, under the common assumption that both systems are tuned to detect divergent and non-overlapping ensemble of molecules. We will challenge this view by studying taste in Drosophila, in which taste neurons are accessible to physiological recording and which exhibit well-defined and stereotyped feeding and sexual behaviors. We will first study if volatiles associated with food or general irritants can be detected by taste neurons. Such detection can occur because some olfactory molecules are occasionally reported to be detected by the taste system of some insects. We will then evaluate if these odorants can modulate the detection of tastants related to food or sex or social signaling via pheromones. In order to achieve these goals, we will develop new stimulus delivery protocols (in collaboration with a microfluids laboratory) and evaluate different electrophysiological recording configurations. Lastly, by using existing genetic constructions, we will evaluate different hypotheses concerning the transduction pathways involved. With this innovative research program, we hope to question the unspoken separation that exists between taste and olfaction, and open new perspectives on the evolution of these sensory systems. Our work promises to stimulate further research in sensory biology and insect cognition, revisiting the concept of information coding from mixtures at the peripheral level, and can also have applications in pest management. Our multidisciplinary and collaborative approach will enhance research excellence in Europe.
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