Structural basis for perception of diverse chemical substances by T1r taste receptors
How can the tongue detect so many flavours with so few molecular receptors in the taste buds? A structural analysis suggests this sensory diversity is achieved because of the way water gets structured around flavour molecules, allowing many different compounds to stimulate the same complex of taste receptors.
A team in Japan, led by researchers from Okayama University, determined the atomic structure of the protein complex formed between two interlocked taste receptors. They showed that the three-dimensional shape of the complex was fairly consistent, regardless of what amino acid bound it. However, different amino acids patterned the surrounding water molecules in different ways — which helps explain how so many varied flavour molecules can dock at one site.
The researchers studied the protein complex from the medaka fish (Oryzias latipes), yet because the taste receptor proteins are found throughout the animal kingdom, the results should be applicable to human taste sensation as well.
- Nature Communications 8, 15530 (2017). doi: 10.1038/ncomms15530