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Is there a direct relationship between oral astringency and human salivary protein binding?

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For decades, it is believed that astringency is due to the polyphenol-induced complexation of proline-rich salivary proteins in the oral cavity. In order to compare for the first time the human sensory threshold concentrations and the salivary protein binding activity of a series of astringent stimuli, human saliva protein was incubated for 5 min at 37 °C in the presence of astringent food-derived compounds and, after micro-centrifugation, the amount of the target molecules in the supernatant was quantitatively determined by HPLC-UV/Vis. Significant protein binding was observed for (−)-epigallocatechin-3-gallate, (−)-gallocatechin-3-gallate, (+)-gallocatechin, and (−)-catechin-3-gallate, all of which containing at least one galloyl moiety in the molecule and exhibiting rather high sensory thresholds of more than 200 μmol/L. In comparison, (+)-catechin and procyanidin B2, both lacking in any galloyl function, showed only comparatively low binding activity and, most interestingly, quercetin-3-O-α-l-rhamnopyranosyl-(1 → 6)-β-d-glucopyranoside and 3-carboxymethyl-indole-1-N-β-d-glucopyranoside did not show any protein binding at all, although the later N- and O-glycosides exhibited extraordinarily low sensory threshold concentrations of less than 0.001 and 0.0003 μmol/L, respectively. The data give some first evidence that the quantity of the non-bound, “free” astringent stimulus in the saliva liquid might be more closely related to the sensory perception of astringency than the amount complexed or precipitated by proteins. It is therefore questionable as to whether oral perception of astringency is related to the complexation and/or precipitation of salivary proteins.

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Correspondence to Thomas Hofmann.

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Schwarz, B., Hofmann, T. Is there a direct relationship between oral astringency and human salivary protein binding?. Eur Food Res Technol 227, 1693–1698 (2008).

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