Variability in human bitter taste sensitivity to chemically diverse compounds can be accounted for by differential TAS2R activation

Eugeni Roura, Asya Aldayyani, Pridhuvi Thavaraj, Sangeeta Prakash, Delma Greenway, Walter G. Thomas, Wolfgang Meyerhof, Natacha Roudnitzky, Simon R. Foster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


The human population displays high variation in taste perception. Differences in individual taste sensitivity may also impact on nutrient intake and overall appetite. A well-characterized example is the variable perception of bitter compounds such as 6-n-propylthiouracil (PROP) and phenylthiocarbamide (PTC), which can be accounted for at the molecular level by polymorphic variants in the specific type 2 taste receptor (TAS2R38). This phenotypic variation has been associated with influencing dietary preference and other behaviors, although the generalization of PROP/PTC taster status as a predictor of sensitivity to other tastes is controversial. Here, we proposed that the taste sensitivities of different bitter compounds would be correlated only when they activate the same bitter taste receptor. Thirtyfour volunteers were exposed to 8 bitter compounds that were selected based on their potential to activate overlapping and distinct repertoires of TAS2Rs. Taste intensity ratings were evaluated using the general Labeled Magnitude Scale. Our data demonstrate a strong interaction between the intensity for bitter substances when they activate common TAS2Rs. Consequently, PROP/PTC sensitivity was not a reliable predictor of general bitter sensitivity. In addition, our findings provide a novel framework to predict taste sensitivity based on their specific T2R activation profile.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)427-435
Number of pages9
JournalChemical Senses
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Bitter taste
  • GLMS
  • Hypertaster
  • Hypotaster
  • PROP
  • TAS2R

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