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PLoS One. 2009 Aug 21;4(8):e6717. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0006717.

Genetic and molecular basis of individual differences in human umami taste perception.

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  • 1Section of Oral Neuroscience, Graduate School of Dental Science, Kyushu University, Fukuoka, Japan. shigemura@dent.kyushu-u.ac.jp

Abstract

Umami taste (corresponds to savory in English) is elicited by L-glutamate, typically as its Na salt (monosodium glutamate: MSG), and is one of five basic taste qualities that plays a key role in intake of amino acids. A particular property of umami is the synergistic potentiation of glutamate by purine nucleotide monophosphates (IMP, GMP). A heterodimer of a G protein coupled receptor, TAS1R1 and TAS1R3, is proposed to function as its receptor. However, little is known about genetic variation of TAS1R1 and TAS1R3 and its potential links with individual differences in umami sensitivity. Here we investigated the association between recognition thresholds for umami substances and genetic variations in human TAS1R1 and TAS1R3, and the functions of TAS1R1/TAS1R3 variants using a heterologous expression system. Our study demonstrated that the TAS1R1-372T creates a more sensitive umami receptor than -372A, while TAS1R3-757C creates a less sensitive one than -757R for MSG and MSG plus IMP, and showed a strong correlation between the recognition thresholds and in vitro dose-response relationships. These results in human studies support the propositions that a TAS1R1/TAS1R3 heterodimer acts as an umami receptor, and that genetic variation in this heterodimer directly affects umami taste sensitivity.

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