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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Feb 1;108(5):2094-9. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1011508108. Epub 2011 Jan 18.

Bitter taste receptors and α-gustducin regulate the secretion of ghrelin with functional effects on food intake and gastric emptying.

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Department of Pathophysiology, Translational Research Center for Gastrointestinal Disorders, Catholic University of Leuven, 3000 Leuven, Belgium.


Ghrelin is a hunger hormone with gastroprokinetic properties but the factors controlling ghrelin secretion from the stomach are unknown. Bitter taste receptors (T2R) and the gustatory G proteins, α-gustducin (gust) and α-transducin, are expressed in the gut and are involved in the chemosensation of nutrients. This study aimed to investigate whether T2R-agonists affect (i) ghrelin release via α-gustducin and (ii) food intake and gastric emptying via the release of ghrelin. The mouse stomach contains two ghrelin cell populations: cells containing octanoyl and desoctanoyl ghrelin, which were colocalized with α-gustducin and α-transducin, and cells staining for desoctanoyl ghrelin. Gavage of T2R-agonists increased plasma octanoyl ghrelin levels in WT mice but the effect was partially blunted in gust(-/-) mice. Intragastric administration of T2R-agonists increased food intake during the first 30 min in WT but not in gust(-/-) and ghrelin receptor knockout mice. This increase was accompanied by an increase in the mRNA expression of agouti-related peptide in the hypothalamus of WT but not of gust(-/-) mice. The temporary increase in food intake was followed by a prolonged decrease (next 4 h), which correlated with an inhibition of gastric emptying. The delay in emptying, which was partially counteracted by ghrelin, was not mediated by cholecystokinin and GLP-1 but involved a direct inhibitory effect of T2R-agonists on gastric contractility. This study is unique in providing functional evidence that activation of bitter taste receptors stimulates ghrelin secretion. Modulation of endogenous ghrelin levels by tastants may provide novel therapeutic applications for the treatment of weight -and gastrointestinal motility disorders.

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