According to a genetic study just published in "Nicotine and Tobacco Research," genes responsible for taste also may yield important information about who smokes and why they smoke.
Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and University of Utah wanted to determine if a "bitterness" gene-phenylthiocarbamide (PTC)-was related to smoking status and how important the taste of cigarettes is to a smoker. As predicted, those smokers who possessed less sensitivity to bitter taste were more likely to rate taste as a strong reason for smoking, and those who were sensitive to bitter taste were less likely to smoke for taste.
A surprising result, which must be replicated for scientific accuracy, was the discovery that smokers with a different, less common genetic variant for taste were the least likely to smoke.
"Nicotine dependence is likely to be the result of many genes and complex environmental effects," said Dale Cannon with the University of Utah, lead author of the study. "What this study tells us is that genetic factors involving the taste of cigarettes should be examined as part of the analysis of nicotine dependence."
Included in the study, conducted in Milwaukee by the University of Wisconsin, were 384 smokers enrolled in a smoking cessation study and 183 controls recruited to donate blood samples. Researchers from Utah examined the blood samples collected from these participants for the PTC gene's two most common sets of alleles-PAV and AVI, named for the amino acids at their three genetic-pair locations.
People with only PAV are most sensitive to bitter taste, while those with only AVI are less sensitive. AVI "non-tasters" were more likely than the PAV "tasters" to smoke for the taste of cigarettes. A third group, people with the less c
Contact: Gloria Meyer
University of Wisconsin-Madison