Gustatory sensation of l- and d-amino acids in humans
Amino acids are known to elicit complex taste, but most human psychophysical studies on the taste of amino acids have focused on a single basic taste, such as umami (savory) taste, sweetness, or bitterness. In this study, we addressed the potential relationship between the structure and the taste properties of amino acids by measuring the human gustatory intensity and quality in response to aqueous solutions of proteogenic amino acids in comparison to d-enantiomers. Trained subjects tasted aqueous solution of each amino acid and evaluated the intensities of total taste and each basic taste using a category-ratio scale. Each basic taste of amino acids showed the dependency on its hydrophobicity, size, charge, functional groups on the side chain, and chirality of the alpha carbon. In addition, the overall taste of amino acid was found to be the combination of basic tastes according to the partial structure. For example, hydrophilic non-charged middle-sized amino acids elicited sweetness, and l-enantiomeric hydrophilic middle-sized structure was necessary for umami taste. For example, l-serine had mainly sweet and minor umami taste, and d-serine was sweet. We further applied Stevens’ psychophysical function to relate the total-taste intensity and the concentration, and found that the slope values depended on the major quality of taste (e.g., bitter large, sour small).