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Mol Biol Evol. 2006 Feb;23(2):292-300. Epub 2005 Oct 5.

Contrasting modes of evolution between vertebrate sweet/umami receptor genes and bitter receptor genes.

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Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Michigan, USA.


Taste reception is fundamental to diet selection in many animals. The genetic basis underlying the evolution and diversity of taste reception, however, is not well understood. Recent discoveries of T1R sweet/umami receptor genes and T2R bitter receptor genes in humans and mice provided an opportunity to address this question. Here, we report the identification of 20 putatively functional T1R genes and 167 T2R genes from the genome sequences of nine vertebrates, including three fishes, one amphibian, one bird, and four mammals. Our comparative genomic analysis shows that orthologous T1R sequences are relatively conserved in evolution and that the T1R gene repertoire remains virtually constant in size across most vertebrates, except for the loss of the T1R2 sweet receptor gene in the sweet-insensitive chicken and the absence of all T1R genes in the tongueless western clawed frog. In contrast, orthologous T2R sequences are more variable, and the T2R repertoire diverges tremendously among species, from only three functional genes in the chicken to 49 in the frog. These evolutionary patterns suggest the relative constancy in the number and type of sweet and umami tastants encountered by various vertebrates or low binding specificities of T1Rs but a large variation in the number and type of bitter compounds detected by different species. Although the rate of gene duplication is much lower in T1Rs than in T2Rs, signals of positive selection are detected during the functional divergences of paralogous T1Rs, as was previously found among paralogous T2Rs. Thus, functional divergence and specialization of taste receptors generally occurred via adaptive evolution.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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