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PLoS One. 2013;8(3):e59810. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0059810. Epub 2013 Mar 28.

Marked increase in PROP taste responsiveness following oral supplementation with selected salivary proteins or their related free amino acids.

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  • 1Department of Biomedical Sciences, Section of Physiology, University of Cagliari, Monserrato, Italy.


The genetic predisposition to taste 6-n-propylthiouracil (PROP) varies among individuals and is associated with salivary levels of Ps-1 and II-2 peptides, belonging to the basic proline-rich protein family (bPRP). We evaluated the role of these proteins and free amino acids that selectively interact with the PROP molecule, in modulating bitter taste responsiveness. Subjects were classified by their PROP taster status based on ratings of perceived taste intensity for PROP and NaCl solutions. Quantitative and qualitative determinations of Ps-1 and II-2 proteins in unstimulated saliva were performed by HPLC-ESI-MS analysis. Subjects rated PROP bitterness after supplementation with Ps-1 and II-2, and two amino acids (L-Arg and L-Lys) whose interaction with PROP was demonstrated by (1)H-NMR spectroscopy. ANOVA showed that salivary levels of II-2 and Ps-1 proteins were higher in unstimulated saliva of PROP super-tasters and medium tasters than in non-tasters. Supplementation of Ps-1 protein in individuals lacking it in saliva enhanced their PROP bitter taste responsiveness, and this effect was specific to the non-taster group.(1)H-NMR results showed that the interaction between PROP and L-Arg is stronger than that involving L-Lys, and taste experiments confirmed that oral supplementation with these two amino acids increased PROP bitterness intensity, more for L-Arg than for L-Lys. These data suggest that Ps-1 protein facilitates PROP bitter taste perception and identifies a role for free L-Arg and L-Lys in PROP tasting.

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