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Chem Senses. 2010 Feb;35(2):157-70. doi: 10.1093/chemse/bjp092. Epub 2009 Dec 18.

The molecular receptive ranges of human TAS2R bitter taste receptors.

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Department of Molecular Genetics, German Institute of Human Nutrition Potsdam-Rehbruecke, Arthur-Scheunert-Allee 114-116, 14558 Nuthetal, Germany.


Humans perceive thousands of compounds as bitter. In sharp contrast, only approximately 25 taste 2 receptors (TAS2R) bitter taste receptors have been identified, raising the question as to how the vast array of bitter compounds can be detected by such a limited number of sensors. To address this issue, we have challenged 25 human taste 2 receptors (hTAS2Rs) with 104 natural or synthetic bitter chemicals in a heterologous expression system. Thirteen cognate bitter compounds for 5 orphan receptors and 64 new compounds for previously identified receptors were discovered. Whereas some receptors recognized only few agonists, others displayed moderate or extreme tuning broadness. Thus, 3 hTAS2Rs together were able to detect approximately 50% of the substances used. Conversely, though 63 bitter substances activated only 1-3 receptors, 19 compounds stimulated up to 15 hTAS2Rs. Our data suggest that the detection of the numerous bitter chemicals is related to the molecular receptive ranges of hTAS2Rs.

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