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J Agric Food Chem. 2011 Nov 9;59(21):11764-71. doi: 10.1021/jf202816u. Epub 2011 Oct 7.

Soy isoflavones and other isoflavonoids activate the human bitter taste receptors hTAS2R14 and hTAS2R39.

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Laboratory of Food Chemistry, Wageningen University, 6703 HD Wageningen, The Netherlands.


The aim of this study was to identify the bitter receptor(s) that recognize the bitter taste of the soy isoflavone genistein. Screening of all 25 human bitter receptors revealed genistein as agonist of hTAS2R14 and hTAS2R39. Genistein displayed threshold values of 4 and 8 μM on hTAS2R14 and hTAS2R39 and EC(50) values of 29 and 49 μM, respectively. In addition, the behavior of structurally similar isoflavonoids was investigated. Although the two receptors are not closely related, the results for hTAS2R14 and hTAS2R39 were similar toward most isoflavonoid aglycones. By trend, threshold values were slightly lower on hTAS2R14. Glucosylation of isoflavones seemed to inhibit activation of hTAS2R14, whereas four of five glucosylated isoflavones were agonists of hTAS2R39, namely, glycitin, genistin, acetylgenistin, and malonylgenistin. A total of three hydroxyl substitutions of the A- and B-rings of the isoflavonoids seemed to be more favorable for receptor activation than fewer hydroxyl groups. The concentration of the trihydroxylated genistein in several soy foods exceeds the determined bitter receptor threshold values, whereas those of other soy isoflavones are around or below their respective threshold value. Despite its low concentration, genistein might be one of the main contributors to the bitterness of soy products. Furthermore, the bioactive isoflavonoids equol and coumestrol activated both receptors, indicating that their sensory impact should be considered when used as food ingredients.

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