The sense of taste in insects is closely involved in their feeding and mating behavior, both of which have a huge impact on public health. Unlike most other organisms, insects have multiple taste organs. The mouthparts have been the primary focus of previous studies in insect taste. However, the interplay between different taste organs is relatively unknown. Among the different taste organs, the legs are especially interesting, as they often serve as the first gauge of food quality before the insects extend their mouthparts. In addition, the legs have also been suggested to detect pheromones and to play key roles in mating behavior. Here, we propose two experiments designed specifically to examine the cellular and molecular basis of taste in the legs, and to examine the functional significance of the legs as a taste organ in contrast to the mouthparts. The results will be important for the understanding of insect feeding behavior, which in turn could be invaluable in designing better insect control strategies.
Every year hundreds of millions of people are infected with insect-borne diseases. Insects rely heavily on chemosensory cues for their feeding and host-seeking behaviors. We propose a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary analysis of the Drosophila legs as a model taste organ, with the goal of increasing our understanding of the insect chemosensory system, which may lead to the development of improved insect control strategies.