To survive and successfully reproduce animals need to maintain a balanced intake of nutrients and energy. The nervous system of insects has evolved multiple mechanisms to regulate feeding behavior. When animals are faced with the choice to feed, several decisions must be made: whether or not to eat, how much to eat, what to eat, and when to eat. Using Drosophila melanogaster substantial progress has been achieved in understanding the neuronal and molecular mechanisms controlling feeding decisions. These feeding decisions are implemented in the nervous system on multiple levels, from alterations in the sensitivity of peripheral sensory organs to the modulation of memory systems. This review discusses methodologies developed in order to study insect feeding, the effects of neuropeptides and neuromodulators on feeding behavior, behavioral evidence supporting the existence of internal energy sensors, neuronal and molecular mechanisms controlling protein intake, and finally the regulation of feeding by circadian rhythms and sleep. From the discussed data a conceptual framework starts to emerge which aims to explain the molecular and neuronal processes maintaining the stability of the internal milieu.
Keywords: behavior, sensory systems, feeding, olfaction, taste, neuromodulators, neuropeptides, internal state
Citation: Itskov PM and Ribeiro C (2013) The dilemmas of the gourmet fly: the molecular and neuronal mechanisms of feeding and nutrient decision making in Drosophila. Front. Neurosci. 7:12. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2013.00012
Received: 06 March 2012; Paper pending published: 01 May 2012;
Accepted: 21 January 2013; Published online: 12 February 2013.
Edited by:Björn Brembs, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany
Copyright: © 2013 Itskov and Ribeiro. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and subject to any copyright notices concerning any third-party graphics etc.
*Correspondence: Carlos Ribeiro, Behaviour and Metabolism Laboratory, Champalimaud Neuroscience Programme, Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown, Avenida Brasília s/n, 1400-038 Lisboa, Portugal. e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org