Have you pondered over how untiringly the tiny fruit fly buzzes nearby your fruit bowl? This behavior not only demands incredible energy but also necessitates highly synchronized neuronal signaling that permits nonstop flight.
A recent study by a team at the National Center for Biological Sciences has revealed molecules necessary in the fruit flies brain that enables flight for long periods of time and helps them locate fruits.
The FMRFaR belongs to a class of proteins known as G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs). They help convert extracellular messages such as hormones or neurotransmitters into cellular responses. Under laboratory conditions, while wild-type flies were able to maintain flight for an average of over 10 minutes, FMRFaR mutant flies could sustain flight for only half that time.
Using genetic trials, the researchers were able to narrow down the function of this receptor to a specific class of neurons in the fly's brain, namely neurons that make and use the neurotransmitter dopamine for communication with other neurons. Dopamine has been implicated in both fly and mammalian behaviors such as locomotion, motivation, addiction, learning, and memory.