The reasons for these perceptual differences involve myriad genes and environmental influences, as well as the interplay between these two factors. The new finding regarding bitterness perception suggests that the taste-receptor genes and their multiple alleles play a dominant role in determining how we perceive the world of tastes.
The longest-recognized and most famous genetically determined taste difference among people is the ability to taste PTC (phenylthiocarbamide) as bitter. PTC taste sensitivity varies tremendously among people; the threshold amount of PTC perceptible by individuals varies over a 1000-fold difference in concentration. These different sensitivities form a bimodal distribution in almost every population examined, and this distribution was interpreted as evidence that simple genetic differences, possibly involving only a single gene, underlie the PTC perceptual phenotype. The result was an 80-year-old search for the gene, which was identified last year.
In the new work, four teams of researchers, including Paul Breslin, Danielle Reed, and Christopher Tharp from the Monell Chemical Senses Center, Dennis Drayna and Un-Kyung Kim from the NIH, Bernd Bufe, Christina Kuhn, and Wolfgang Meyerhof from the German Institute of Human Nutrition (DiFE), and Jay Slack from the Givaudan Corporat
Contact: Heidi Hardman