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J Cell Sci. 2013 Dec 1;126(Pt 23):5465-76. doi: 10.1242/jcs.136440. Epub 2013 Sep 4.

A novel human receptor involved in bitter tastant detection identified using Dictyostelium discoideum.

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Centre for Biomedical Sciences, School of Biological Sciences, Royal Holloway University of London, Egham TW20 0EX, UK.


Detection of substances tasting bitter to humans occurs in diverse organisms including the social amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum. To establish a molecular mechanism for bitter tastant detection in Dictyostelium, we screened a mutant library for resistance to a commonly used bitter standard, phenylthiourea. This approach identified a G-protein-coupled receptor mutant, grlJ(-), which showed a significantly increased tolerance to phenylthiourea in growth, survival and movement. This mutant was not resistant to a structurally dissimilar potent bitter tastant, denatonium benzoate, suggesting it is not a target for at least one other bitter tastant. Analysis of the cell-signalling pathway involved in the detection of phenylthiourea showed dependence upon heterotrimeric G protein and phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase activity, suggesting that this signalling pathway is responsible for the cellular effects of phenylthiourea. This is further supported by a phenylthiourea-dependent block in the transient cAMP-induced production of phosphatidylinositol (3,4,5)-trisphosphate (PIP3) in wild-type but not grlJ(-) cells. Finally, we have identified an uncharacterized human protein γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) type B receptor subunit 1 isoform with weak homology to GrlJ that restored grlJ(-) sensitivity to phenylthiourea in cell movement and PIP3 regulation. Our results thus identify a novel pathway for the detection of the standard bitter tastant phenylthiourea in Dictyostelium and implicate a poorly characterized human protein in phenylthiourea-dependent cell responses.


Bitter taste; Denatonium; Dictyostelium; GABABR1; PI3K; Phenylthiourea; Q8NHA5; Taste perception; grlJ

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