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An amino-acid taste receptor


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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Figure 1: T1R receptor combinations respond differentially to l- and d-amino acids.
Figure 2: Dose response of T1R1+3 to l-amino acids and IMP.
Figure 3: IMP stimulates responses of the chorda tympani nerve to amino acids in mice.
Figure 4: Polymorphic differences in T1Rs influence receptor function.

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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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Correspondence to Charles S. Zuker.

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Nelson, G., Chandrashekar, J., Hoon, M. et al. An amino-acid taste receptor. Nature 416, 199–202 (2002).

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