Visitors to the Oktoberfest have always known it and now it has been scientifically proven – beer can lift your spirits. Scientists at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) examined 13,000 food components to find out whether they stimulate the reward centre in the brain and make people feel good. Hordenine which is found in malted barley and beer seems to do the job quite well.
Some foods make us happy. Well, maybe not happy but they make us feel good. That is why we cannot stop eating when we have had enough. Scientists call this hedonic hunger – the drive to eat for pleasure rather than to satisfy an actual biological need.
This feel-good effect is caused by the neurotransmitter dopamine – tempting foods stimulate the reward centre in the brain where the dopamine D2 receptor is located. Researchers of the Chair of Food Chemistry at FAU investigated whether there are special substances in foods that activate the dopamine D2 receptor in the same way as dopamine.
The team worked with FAU’s Computer Chemistry Centre using a virtual screening approach which is often used in pharmaceutical research. This process analyses food components in a computer simulation rather than in the laboratory. Using computer simulations means that all types of known substance can be investigated. In the laboratory, it is only feasible to test a small selection of foodstuff extracts using standard screening techniques.
13,000 molecules, 17 hits
Initially, the scientists set up a database of 13,000 molecules which are present in foodstuffs. Using this database, the objective was to find those molecules that fit the dopamine D2 receptor – rather like finding the right key for a lock.
The system was then used to identify which molecules could interact with the dopamine D2 receptor; these might be present in synthetic substances already known to interact with the receptor, such as medicines for treating Parkinson’s and schizophrenia, or which might be candidates for interaction due to the three-dimensional structure of the receptor. In the end, 17 of the original 13,000 options were selected and these were analysed in the laboratory in cooperation with the Division of Medicinal Chemistry at FAU.
Beer – a surprise finding
The most promising results were obtained for hordenine, a substance present in malted barley and beer. ‘It came as a bit of surprise that a substance in beer activates the dopamine D2 receptor, especially as we were not specifically looking at stimulant foodstuffs,’ explains Prof. Dr. Monika Pischetsrieder.
Just like dopamine, hordenine stimulates the dopamine D2 receptor, however it uses a different signalling pathway. In contrast with dopamine, hordenine activates the receptor solely through G proteins, potentially leading to a more prolonged effect on the reward centre of the brain.
The team is now investigating whether hordenine levels in beer are sufficient to have a significant effect on the reward centre. All things considered, the results indicate that hordenine may well contribute to the mood-boosting effect of beer.
The researchers have published their findings in an article in Scientific Reports: Sommer, Thomas; Hübner, Harald; El Kerdawy, Ahmed; Gmeiner, Peter; Pischetsrieder, Monika; Clark, Tim. Identification of the Beer Component Hordenine as Food-Derived Dopamine D2 Receptor Agonist by Virtual Screening a 3D Compound Database. Scientific Reports (2017), 7: 44201, DOI: 10.1038/srep44201.
Prof. Dr. Monika Pischetsrieder
Phone: +49 9131 85 24102
Dr. Susanne Langer | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
Research team creates new possibilities for medicine and materials sciences
22.01.2018 | Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Saarland University bioinformaticians compute gene sequences inherited from each parent
22.01.2018 | Universität des Saarlandes
On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.
We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...
What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...
For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.
Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...
At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.
No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...
Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.
Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...
08.01.2018 | Event News
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
22.01.2018 | Materials Sciences
22.01.2018 | Earth Sciences
22.01.2018 | Life Sciences