Editors' ChoiceSensory Perception

The Makings of a Powerful Sweet Tooth

Science Signaling  26 Aug 2014:
Vol. 7, Issue 340, pp. ec233
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.2005818

The main attraction of nectar, a hummingbird favorite, is the sweet taste of sugar. Oddly, though, birds lack the main vertebrate receptor for sweet taste, T1R2. Baldwin et al. show that a related receptor, T1R1-T1R3, which generally controls savory taste in vertebrates, adapts in hummingbirds to detect sweet (see the Perspective by Jiang and Beauchamp). This repurposing probably allowed hummingbirds to specialize in nectar feeding and may have assisted the evolution of the many and varied hummingbird species seen today.

M. W. Baldwin, Y. Toda, T. Nakagita, M. J. O’Connell, K. C. Klasing, T. Misaka, S. V. Edwards, S. D. Liberles, Evolution of sweet taste perception in hummingbirds by transformation of the ancestral umami receptor. Science 345, 929–933 (2014). [Abstract] [Full Text]

P. Jiang, G. K. Beauchamp, Sensing nectar’s sweetness. Science 345, 878–879 (2014). [Abstract] [Full Text]