Activation of thermoreceptors mediates raw garlics burning pungency
The worldwide popularity of garlic as a food ingredient and its therapeutic stature in folklore both stem in part from the distinctive pungency associated with its raw, uncooked state. Researchers this week report that this pungency, manifested as a characteristic mixture of burning and prickling sensations and flavor, can be ascribed largely to the effects of a particular compound and its ability to activate specific protein thermoreceptors in the mouth.
The findings are reported in the May 24 issue of Current Biology by a team led by Ardem Patapoutian of The Scripps Research Institute and the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation.
Despite garlics popularity, the compounds responsible for its pungency, as well as the receptors through which we perceive those compounds, have remained unknown. In their new work, the researchers found that raw, but not baked, garlic was capable of eliciting responses from two so-called TRP ("trip") channels, TRPV1 and TRPA1, which belong to a remarkable family of receptors that can be activated by temperature and chemicals. Some TRP channels, including TRPA1 and TRPV1, respond to both temperature and chemical compounds: TRPV1 is known to respond to noxious (painful) heat and to the pungent component of chili peppers, whereas TRPA1 is activated by noxious cold and by pungent compounds found in cinnamon oil, mustard oil, and wintergreen oil. These past findings, as well as the present work, indicate that thermosensitive TRP channels play a key role in the phenomenon of chemesthesis (the somatosensory contribution to the sense of taste), which is experienced, for example, in the heat of chili peppers or the coolness of peppermint. Both TRPV1 and TRPA1 are found in pain-sensing neurons that innervate the mouth and tongue.
The researchers went on to identify the sulfide compound allicin, an unstable chemical found in bruised, cut, or crushed garlic, as the chemical responsible for the activation of TRPV1 and TRPA1 and as the likely key chemical component responsible for garlics pungency. Allicin is converted to a variety of more stable sulfide compounds over time or with heating, in correspondence with the significantly milder taste of roasted garlic.
Garlics pungency most likely evolved as a defense mechanism against browsing by animals, and indeed many animals--though clearly not all humans--are known to be repelled by it.
Heidi Hardman | EurekAlert!
The most recent press releases about innovation >>>
Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:
Physicists working with researcher Oriol Romero-Isart devised a new simple scheme to theoretically generate arbitrarily short and focused electromagnetic fields. This new tool could be used for precise sensing and in microscopy.
Microwaves, heat radiation, light and X-radiation are examples for electromagnetic waves. Many applications require to focus the electromagnetic fields to...
Strong light-matter coupling in these semiconducting tubes may hold the key to electrically pumped lasers
Light-matter quasi-particles can be generated electrically in semiconducting carbon nanotubes. Material scientists and physicists from Heidelberg University...
Fraunhofer IPA has developed a proximity sensor made from silicone and carbon nanotubes (CNT) which detects objects and determines their position. The materials and printing process used mean that the sensor is extremely flexible, economical and can be used for large surfaces. Industry and research partners can use and further develop this innovation straight away.
At first glance, the proximity sensor appears to be nothing special: a thin, elastic layer of silicone onto which black square surfaces are printed, but these...
3-D shape acquisition using water displacement as the shape sensor for the reconstruction of complex objects
A global team of computer scientists and engineers have developed an innovative technique that more completely reconstructs challenging 3D objects. An ancient...
Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.
For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...