The 25 human bitter receptors and their respective genes (TAS2Rs) contain unusually high levels of allelic variation, which may influence response to bitter compounds in the food supply. Phenotypes based on the perceived bitterness of single bitter compounds were first linked to food preference over 50 years ago. The most studied phenotype is propylthiouracil bitterness, which is mediated primarily by the TAS2R38 gene and possibly others. In a laboratory-based study, we tested for associations between TAS2R variants and sensations, liking, or intake of bitter beverages among healthy adults who were primarily of European ancestry. A haploblock across TAS2R3, TAS2R4, and TAS2R5 explained some variability in the bitterness of espresso coffee. For grapefruit juice, variation at a TAS2R19 single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) was associated with increased bitterness and decreased liking. An association between a TAS2R16 SNP and alcohol intake was identified, and the putative TAS2R38-alcohol relationship was confirmed, although these polymorphisms did not explain sensory or hedonic responses to sampled scotch whisky. In summary, TAS2R polymorphisms appear to influence the sensations, liking, or intake of common and nutritionally significant beverages. Studying perceptual and behavioral differences in vivo using real foods and beverages may potentially identify polymorphisms related to dietary behavior even in the absence of known ligands.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Sensory Systems
- Physiology (medical)
- Behavioral Neuroscience