Elucidation of mammalian bitter taste

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Abstract

A family of approximately 30 TAS2R bitter taste receptors has been identified in mammals. Their genes evolved through adaptive diversification and are linked to chromosomal loci known to influence bitter taste in mice and humans. The agonists for various TAS2Rs have been identified and all of them were established as bitter tastants. TAS2Rs are broadly tuned to detect multiple bitter substances, explaining, in part, how mammals can recognize numerous bitter compounds with a limited set of receptors. The TAS2Rs are expressed in a subset of taste receptor cells, which are distinct from those mediating responses to other taste qualities. However, cells devoted to the detection of sweet, umami, and bitter stimuli share common signal transduction components. Transgenic expression of a human TAS2R in sweet or bitter taste receptor-expressing cells of mice induced either strong attraction or aversion to the receptor’s cognate bitter tastant. Thus, dedicated taste receptor cells appear to function as broadly tuned detectors for bitter substances and are wired to elicit aversive behavior.