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An amino-acid taste receptor

Nature volume 416, pages 199202 (14 March 2002) | Download Citation



The sense of taste provides animals with valuable information about the nature and quality of food. Mammals can recognize and respond to a diverse repertoire of chemical entities, including sugars, salts, acids and a wide range of toxic substances1. Several amino acids taste sweet or delicious (umami) to humans, and are attractive to rodents and other animals2. This is noteworthy because l-amino acids function as the building blocks of proteins, as biosynthetic precursors of many biologically relevant small molecules, and as metabolic fuel. Thus, having a taste pathway dedicated to their detection probably had significant evolutionary implications. Here we identify and characterize a mammalian amino-acid taste receptor. This receptor, T1R1+3, is a heteromer of the taste-specific T1R1 and T1R3 G-protein-coupled receptors. We demonstrate that T1R1 and T1R3 combine to function as a broadly tuned l-amino-acid sensor responding to most of the 20 standard amino acids, but not to their d-enantiomers or other compounds. We also show that sequence differences in T1R receptors within and between species (human and mouse) can significantly influence the selectivity and specificity of taste responses.

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We thank W. Guo for help generating various T1R expression constructs, and A. Becker for help with tissue culture and antibodies. We are grateful to S. Simon and R. Erikson for teaching us the nerve-recording preparation. We also thank L. Stryer and members of the Zuker lab for help and advice. This work was supported in part by a grant from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders to C.S.Z. C.S.Z. is an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

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  1. *Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Departments of Biology and Neurosciences, University of California at San Diego, La Jolla, California, 92093-0649, USA

    • Greg Nelson
    • , Jayaram Chandrashekar
    • , Luxin Feng
    • , Grace Zhao
    •  & Charles S. Zuker
  2. †National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA

    • Mark A. Hoon
    •  & Nicholas J. P. Ryba


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The authors declare that they have no competing financial interests

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Correspondence to Charles S. Zuker.

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