Looking for Food: Molecular Neuroethology of Invertebrate Feeding Behavior


Bor Luen Tang, Department of Biochemistry, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore, 8 Medical Drive, Singapore 117597.
E-mail: bchtbl@nus.edu.sg


The assignment of complex behavior of animals to the function of specific genes has seen significant advances in the past decade. The advent of modern tools of genetics and genomics permitted analyses that revealed a good number of neural system enriched genes whose products modulate, and whose polymorphism qualitatively or quantitatively influenced invertebrate feeding behavior. The most prominent of these genes are orthologues of foraging (for) and the neuropeptide Y (NPY)/NPY receptor. The former encodes a cyclic-GMP-dependent protein kinase, which functional genetics have been characterized in Drosophila melanogaster, Apis mellifera and Caenorhabditis elegans. Allelic variations and changes in the expression of the above genes could influence the initiation of particular feeding behaviors or related social phenotype. These genes have provided the first molecular insights towards feeding behavior in invertebrates. Besides detailed investigations into the neural pathways involved and mechanisms of function of the gene products, parallel studies in other animal models is imperative to understand ecological drivers of animal feeding behavior.