Honeybees rely on nectar as their main source of carbohydrates. Sucrose, glucose, and fructose are the main components of plant nectars. Intriguingly, honeybees express only 3 putative sugar receptors (AmGr1, AmGr2, and AmGr3), which is in stark contrast to many other insects and vertebrates. The sugar receptors are only partially characterized. AmGr1 detects different sugars including sucrose and glucose. AmGr2 is assumed to act as a co-receptor only, while AmGr3 is assumedly a fructose receptor. We show that honeybee gustatory receptor AmGr3 is highly specialized for fructose perception when expressed in Xenopus oocytes. When we introduced nonsense mutations to the respective AmGr3 gene using CRISPR/Cas9 in eggs of female workers, the resulting mutants displayed almost a complete loss of responsiveness to fructose. In contrast, responses to sucrose were normal. Nonsense mutations introduced by CRISPR/Cas9 in honeybees can thus induce a measurable behavioral change and serve to characterize the function of taste receptors in vivo. CRISPR/Cas9 is an excellent novel tool for characterizing honeybee taste receptors in vivo. Biophysical receptor characterization in Xenopus oocytes and nonsense mutation of AmGr3 in honeybees unequivocally demonstrate that this receptor is highly specific for fructose.

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