BALTIMORE, April 27 (UPI) — U.S. researchers say they have identified a protein in fruit flies that helps the flies detect noxious chemicals and decide what to eat and what to avoid.
Johns Hopkins University scientists said their discovery of the protein TRPA1 in sensory cells on the “tongues” of fruit flies raises the possibility of a new molecular target for controlling insect pests.
“We’re interested in how TRPA1 and a whole family of so-called TRP channels affect not just the senses, like taste, but also behavior,” Professor Craig Montell, who led the study, said.
Montell said when his team knocked out the TRPA1 sensor, the behavior change — an alteration in food preference — was stark.
“This is the first TRP channel in insects that responds to a naturally occurring plant chemical known as an anti-feedant, so now we have a target for finding more effective chemicals to protect plants from destruction by insect pests,” Montell said.
The study, which included researchers Sang Hoon Kim, Youngseok Lee, Bradley Akitake, Owen Woodward and William Guggino, appears in the April 19 early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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