Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Individual differences in taste perception directly related to genetic variation in taste receptors


Differing forms of taste genes mean that we all live in our own unique taste world

Why do brussels sprouts taste bitterly repellent to one person and bland - or even delicious - to the next? A study published in the February 22 issue of Current Biology confirms the influential role of genetics in determining the wide range of human sensitivity to taste, ultimately impacting how we each perceive the world in a slightly different way.

"Each human carries their own distinctive set of taste receptors which gives them a unique perception of how foods and medicines taste," explains Monell Chemical Senses Center psychophysicist Paul Breslin, PhD, who shares first authorship and is a corresponding contributor for the study. "This paper shows that a single gene codes for multiple forms of a taste receptor, with each form having a differing sensitivity to taste compounds. Further, a person’s perceptual sensitivity to these bitter tasting compounds corresponds strikingly well with their genetically-determined receptor sensitivity."

In the paper, researchers at the Monell Center and collaborating institutions related individual perception of the bitter-tasting compounds PTC and PROP to variation in a bitter taste receptor gene known as hTAS2R38.

The researchers cloned two forms (haplotypes) of the hTAS2R38 gene and expressed the corresponding receptors in a cell culture. The two haplotypes, known as PAV and AVI, vary with respect to amino acid substitutions encoded at certain positions on the taste receptor protein.

In the cell culture experiments, small amounts of the bitter compounds activated cells expressing the PAV form of the receptor, whereas cells expressing the AVI form were unresponsive to the same compounds. Cells expressing other haplotypes (eg PVI, AAI or AAV) had intermediate sensitivity to the bitter compounds.

Other experiments examined bitterness perception in human subjects. People with the PAV form of the hTAS2R38 gene were most sensitive to the bitter taste of PROP and PTC. Subjects homozygous for the AVI haplotype were 100 to 1000 times less sensitive to bitter taste of the two compounds, confirming the lack of response in the cell culture experiment. These data implicate the responsive PAV haplotype as a major determinant of sensitivity to the bitter taste of PROP and PTC in humans.

"These data answer a long-standing question about why humans differ in their ability to taste some bitter compounds," explains study co-author Danielle Reed, PhD, a Monell geneticist. "Now we can expand our use of this procedure to understand why people are sensitive to other types or tastes, such as sweet or umami, or other types of bitter compounds. We would then be able to test people for their innate ability or inability to taste a variety of flavors and foods." Such knowledge may someday be used to help patients consume beneficial bitter-tasting compounds, such as pharmaceuticals and health-promoting bitter-tasting plants.

The studies demonstrate that variations in a single bitter receptor gene can code for different taste receptors, each sensitive to distinct bitter taste compounds. Thus, while each human may have 25 or so bitter receptor taste genes, because each gene can code for multiple receptors with differing sensitivities, there may be hundreds of different bitter taste receptors in the human population as a whole, leading to wide individual variation in perception of bitterness.

The existence of both bitter "tasters" and "non-tasters" has the scientists curious for more answers. Breslin comments, "From a human evolutionary perspective, we want to understand how and why both tasters and non-tasters evolved and were maintained in the gene pool." Reed continues, "Usually when we see a trait like this, there is a biological advantage to maintaining the variation. We’re wondering what that could be."

Sharing first authorship of the paper with Breslin is Bernd Bufe from the German Institute of Human Nutrition (DIFE). Also contributing to the studies were Wolfgang Meyerhof and Christina Kuhn at the German Institute of Human Nutrition; Un-Kyung Kim and Dennis Drayna from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders at the National Institutes of Health; Jay P. Slack from the Givuadan Flavors Corporation; and Christopher D. Tharp of Monell.

Paul Breslin | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Don't Give the Slightest Chance to Toxic Elements in Medicinal Products
23.03.2018 | Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB)

nachricht North and South Cooperation to Combat Tuberculosis
22.03.2018 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Space observation with radar to secure Germany's space infrastructure

Satellites in near-Earth orbit are at risk due to the steady increase in space debris. But their mission in the areas of telecommunications, navigation or weather forecasts is essential for society. Fraunhofer FHR therefore develops radar-based systems which allow the detection, tracking and cataloging of even the smallest particles of debris. Satellite operators who have access to our data are in a better position to plan evasive maneuvers and prevent destructive collisions. From April, 25-29 2018, Fraunhofer FHR and its partners will exhibit the complementary radar systems TIRA and GESTRA as well as the latest radar techniques for space observation across three stands at the ILA Berlin.

The "traffic situation" in space is very tense: the Earth is currently being orbited not only by countless satellites but also by a large volume of space...

Im Focus: Researchers Discover New Anti-Cancer Protein

An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.

The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

New solar solutions for sustainable buildings and cities

23.03.2018 | Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

For graphite pellets, just add elbow grease

23.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Unique communication strategy discovered in stem cell pathway controlling plant growth

23.03.2018 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

Sharpening the X-ray view of the nanocosm

23.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>