Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Taste for Life

Fruit flies taste the 'building blocks' used to make genetic messages inside cells

27 August 2018

Taste for Life

Food tastes good, and that’s why we want to eat it. Animals are equipped with taste receptors enabling them to seek out tasty fats, proteins and carbohydrates that are needed to sustain life, growth and health. This little fruit fly maggot has to increase its bodyweight around 200 times in just a few days before it can move on to the next stage of insect development, so it’s constantly munching to get the nutrients it needs. Researchers have now found that in addition to the three standard food groups, these maggots can also taste chemicals known as ribonucleosides – the building blocks used to make genetic messages inside cells. Most animals build these chemicals from proteins and carbohydrates, so the discovery of specific taste receptors is an unexpected finding. Maybe the maggots have evolved the taste for ribonucleosides because they need an extra nutrient boost to support their unusually fast growth?

Written by Kat Arney

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