Wang, ZR (reprint author), Chinese Acad Sci, Shanghai Inst Biol Sci, State Key Lab Neurosci, Inst Neurosci, Shanghai 200031, Peoples R China,ZuorenWang@ion.ac.cn
Water sensation is a specific taste modality in the fruit fly. Water-induced hypoosmolarity activates specific gustatory receptor neurons; however, the molecular identity of the putative osmolarity sensor in these neurons remains unknown. We found that amiloride and its analogs specifically antagonized the response of water gustatory receptor neurons and the behavior of flies toward water stimulation. Deletion of the gene that encodes the amiloride-sensitive PPK28 channel, a DEG/eNaC (degenerin/epithelial sodium channel) family member, abolished the water-induced activity of water gustatory receptor neurons and greatly diminished the behavioral response of flies to water. Ectopic expression of the PPK28 channel in the bitter cells within the intermediate-type sensilla renders these sensilla responsive to water stimuli. Thus, the amiloride-sensitive PPK28 channel may serve as the osmolarity sensor for gustatory water reception in the fruit fly.