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G protein-coupled receptors in taste physiology and pharmacology **

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posted on 2023-05-03, 18:10 authored by Raise AhmadRaise Ahmad, Julie DalzielJulie Dalziel
Heterotrimeric G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) comprise the largest receptor family in mammals and are responsible for the regulation of most physiological functions. Besides mediating the sensory modalities of olfaction and vision, GPCRs also transduce signals for three basic taste qualities of sweet, umami (savory taste), and bitter, as well as the flavor sensation kokumi. Taste GPCRs reside in specialised taste receptor cells (TRCs) within taste buds. Type I taste GPCRs (TAS1R) form heterodimeric complexes that function as sweet (TAS1R2/TAS1R3) or umami (TAS1R1/TAS1R3) taste receptors, whereas Type II are monomeric bitter taste receptors or kokumi/calcium-sensing receptors. Sweet, umami and kokumi receptors share structural similarities in containing multiple agonist binding sites with pronounced selectivity while most bitter receptors contain a single binding site that is broadly tuned to a diverse array of bitter ligands in a non-selective manner. Tastant binding to the receptor activates downstream secondary messenger pathways leading to depolarization and increased intracellular calcium in TRCs, that in turn innervate the gustatory cortex in the brain. Despite recent advances in our understanding of the relationship between agonist binding and the conformational changes required for receptor activation, several major challenges and questions remain in taste GPCR biology that are discussed in the present review. In recent years, intensive integrative approaches combining heterologous expression, mutagenesis and homology modeling have together provided insight regarding agonist binding site locations and molecular mechanisms of orthosteric and allosteric modulation. In addition, studies based on transgenic mice, utilizing either global or conditional knock out strategies have provided insights to taste receptor signal transduction mechanisms and their roles in physiology. However, the need for more functional studies in a physiological context is apparent and would be enhanced by a crystallized structure of taste receptors for a more complete picture of their pharmacological mechanisms. ** This article is part of the research topic: Recent Advances in G Protein-Coupled Receptor Signalling: Impact of Intracellular Location, Environment and Biased Agonism


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© 2020 Ahmad and Dalziel. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.


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Frontiers Media

Journal title

Frontiers in Pharmacology




Ahmad, R., & Dalziel, J. E. (2020). G protein-coupled receptors in taste physiology and pharmacology. Frontiers in Pharmacology, 11, 587664. doi:10.3389/fphar.2020.587664

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