Fish Smell ATP to Find Food

Sensory neurons in the tip of the zebrafish nose respond to molecular signals released from food sources.

Sandhya Sekar
Sep 1, 2017

A novel receptor identified in the nose of zebrafish helps the animals track down their next meal.© ISTOCK.COM/MIRKO_ROSENAU


The paper
N. Wakisaka et al., “An adenosine receptor for olfaction in fish,” Curr Biol, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2017.04.014, 2017.

A nose for ATP
Studies have shown that fish sense ATP, the cellular unit of energy, and follow concentration gradients of the molecule released by zooplankton to track down their next meal. Testing zebrafish in the lab, neurobiologist Yoshihiro Yoshihara of the RIKEN Brain Science Institute in Japan and colleagues found that ATP appeared to activate a small number of short, pear-shape olfactory sensory neurons at the very tip of the nose.

A neuronal odor trail
When the researchers hunted for ATP receptors in the zebrafish genome, they found a novel receptor called A2c. Cell culture experiments revealed that A2c was not directly activated by ATP, however; two...