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Chem Senses. 2003 Oct;28(8):695-704.

Taste sensitivities to PROP and PTC vary independently in mice.

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Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21201-1509, USA.


Mammals use common mechanisms to detect, transduce and process taste stimulus information. For example, they share families of receptors that respond to amino acids, and sweet- and bitter-tasting stimuli. Nonetheless, it also clear that different species exhibit unique taste sensitivities that may reflect specific genetic variations. In humans, sensitivities to the chemically similar, bitter-tasting compounds 6-n-propylthiouracil (PROP) and phenylthiocarbamide (PTC) are heritable and strongly correlated, suggesting a common genetic basis. However, it is unknown whether PROP and PTC taste sensitivities are similarly correlated in mice. Here we report that PROP and PTC taste sensitivities vary independently between two inbred strains of mice. In brief-access taste tests C3HeB/FeJ (C3) and SWR/J (SW) mice possess similar taste sensitivity to PTC, while SW mice are significantly more sensitive to PROP than are C3 mice. In two-bottle preference tests, however, SW mice display greater aversion to both compounds. This discrepancy may be explained by the observation that SW mice consumed taste solutions at a greater rate during the intake test than did C3 mice. Therefore, PTC avoidance is correlated with the amount of PTC consumed in the intake tests rather than the concentration of PTC tested. These findings suggest that post-ingestive factors play a significant role in PTC avoidance during intake tests and highlight an important advantage of brief-access tests over intake tests in resolving the gustatory and post-ingestive contributions to taste-related behaviors. Most strikingly, these results demonstrate that in mice, unlike in humans, PTC and PROP taste sensitivities vary independently, thereby suggesting a subtle functional diversity of bitter-taste mechanisms across mammalian species.

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