Avoiding poisons: A matter of bitter taste

Nov 18, 2013

In most animals, taste has evolved to avoid all things bitter—-a key to survival—- to avoid eating something that could be poisonous via taste receptors, known as Tas2r, that quickly spring into action and elicit the bitter sensation.

Published recently in the online early edition of Molecular Biology and Evolution, authors Zhang, et. al., tested the hypothesis that herbivores—-and their plant diets—-have evolved to have greater number of Tas2r bitter taste receptor genes in their genomes than omnivores or carnivores. They identified Tas2r genes in more than 54 vertebrate species including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fishes, and grouped them into functional and non-functional genes. They also constructed evolutionary trees and estimated the loss and birth of Tas2r genes. Finally, they correlated the Tas2r gene repertoire of the species with their diets.

Their analyses supported the hypothesis, showing vertebrates can also be classified as herbivores, carnivores, or omnivores based on their Tas2r genetic profile. The Tas2r gene number in a species also is correlated with the fraction of plants in its diet. They conclude that because contain more toxic compounds than do, dietary toxins are a major selective force shaping the diversity of the Tas2r genetic repertoire.

Explore further: Research team elucidates evolution of bitter taste sensitivity

More information: mbe.oxfordjournals.org/content… lbev.mst219.abstract

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Multiple genes manage how people taste sweeteners

Aug 20, 2013

Genetics may play a role in how people's taste receptors send signals, leading to a wide spectrum of taste preferences, according to Penn State food scientists. These varied, genetically influenced responses may mean that ...

Recommended for you

Team advances genome editing technique

Oct 21, 2014

Customized genome editing – the ability to edit desired DNA sequences to add, delete, activate or suppress specific genes – has major potential for application in medicine, biotechnology, food and agriculture.

User comments : 0