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Functional divergence of bitter taste receptors in a nectar-feeding bird.


ABSTRACT: Nectar may contain many secondary metabolites that are commonly toxic and bitter-tasting. It has been hypothesized that such bitter-tasting secondary metabolites might keep the nectar exclusive to only a few pollinators. To test this hypothesis, we examined functional changes of bitter taste receptor genes (Tas2rs) in a species of nectar-feeding bird (Anna's hummingbird) by comparing these genes with those from two closely related insect-feeding species (chimney swift and chuck-will's widow). We previously identified a larger number of Tas2rs in the hummingbird than in its close insectivorous relatives. In the present study, we demonstrate higher sensitivity and new functions in the hummingbird Tas2r gene copies generated by a lineage-specific duplication, which has been shaped by positive selection. These results suggest that the bitter taste may lead to increased sensitivities and specialized abilities of the hummingbird to detect bitter-tasting nectar. Moreover, this study potentially supports the hypothesis that bitter-tasting nectar may have been specialized for some pollinators, thus enforcing plant-pollinator mutualism.

SUBMITTER: Wang Y 

PROVIDER: S-EPMC6769140 | BioStudies | 2019-01-01

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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