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A family of candidate taste receptors in human and mouse


The gustatory system of mammals can sense four basic taste qualities, bitter, sweet, salty and sour, as well as umami, the taste of glutamate1,2,3,4,5,6. Previous studies suggested that the detection of bitter and sweet tastants by taste receptor cells in the mouth is likely to involve G-protein-coupled receptors2,7,8. Although two putative G-protein-coupled bitter/sweet taste receptors have been identified9, the chemical diversity of bitter and sweet compounds leads one to expect that there is a larger number of different receptors8,10,11. Here we report the identification of a family of candidate taste receptors (the TRBs) that are members of the G-protein-coupled receptor superfamily and that are specifically expressed by taste receptor cells. A cluster of genes encoding human TRBs is located adjacent to a Prp gene locus12, which in mouse is tightly linked to the SOA genetic locus that is involved in detecting the bitter compound sucrose octaacetate13,14,15. Another TRB gene is found on a human contig assigned to chromosome 5p15, the location of a genetic locus (PROP) that controls the detection of the bitter compound 6-n-propyl-2-thiouracil in humans16,17.

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Figure 1: Candidate taste receptors encoded by human and mouse TRB genes.
Figure 2: TRB genes are expressed in taste papillae.
Figure 3: TRB genes are expressed in taste receptor cells in taste buds.


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We would like to thank E. Kurosawa-Pelletier and C. Gao for expert technical assistance and K. Fowler for help in preparing the manuscript. This work was supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, grants from the National Institues of Health (to L.B.B.), and fellowship support from the Alice and Joseph Brook Fund (to J.-P. M.). Genbank accession numbers for mouse TRBs are AF24771–AF24775. Human TRB gene sequences are in the NCBI database in contigs NT_001856 (chromosome 12), NT_000146 (chromosome 5) and NT_001612, NT_000322 and NT_002055 (chromosome 7).

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Matsunami, H., Montmayeur, JP. & Buck, L. A family of candidate taste receptors in human and mouse. Nature 404, 601–604 (2000).

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