Lineage-specific loss of function of bitter taste receptor genes in humans and nonhuman primates.
ABSTRACT: Since the process of becoming dead genes or pseudogenes (pseudogenization) is irreversible and can occur rather rapidly under certain environmental circumstances, it is one plausible determinant for characterizing species specificity. To test this evolutionary hypothesis, we analyzed the tempo and mode of duplication and pseudogenization of bitter taste receptor (T2R) genes in humans as well as in 12 nonhuman primates. The results show that primates have accumulated more pseudogenes than mice after their separation from the common ancestor and that lineage-specific pseudogenization becomes more conspicuous in humans than in nonhuman primates. Although positive selection has operated on some amino acids in extracellular domains, functional constraints against T2R genes are more relaxed in primates than in mice and this trend has culminated in the rapid deterioration of the bitter-tasting capability in humans. Since T2R molecules play an important role in avoiding generally bitter toxic and harmful substances, substantial modification of the T2R gene repertoire is likely to reflect different responses to changes in the environment and to result from species-specific food preference during primate evolution.
Project description:Mammalian spermatogenesis and sperm maturation are susceptible to the effects of internal and external factors. However, how male germ cells interact with and respond to these elements including those potentially toxic substances is poorly understood. Here, we show that many bitter-taste receptors (T2rs), which are believed to function as gatekeepers in the oral cavity to detect and innately prevent the ingestion of poisonous bitter-tasting compounds, are expressed in mouse seminiferous tubules. Our in situ hybridization results indicate that Tas2r transcripts are expressed postmeiotically. Functional analysis showed that mouse spermatids and spermatozoa responded to both naturally occurring and synthetic bitter-tasting compounds by increasing intracellular free calcium concentrations, and individual male germ cells exhibited different ligand-activation profiles, indicating that each cell may express a unique subset of T2r receptors. These calcium responses could be suppressed by a specific bitter-tastant blocker or abolished by the knockout of the gene for the G protein subunit ?-gustducin. Taken together, our data strongly suggest that male germ cells, like taste bud cells in the oral cavity and solitary chemosensory cells in the airway, utilize T2r receptors to sense chemicals in the milieu that may affect sperm behavior and fertilization.
Project description:The bitter taste serves as an important natural defence against the ingestion of poisonous foods and is thus believed to be indispensable in animals. However, vampire bats are obligate blood feeders that show a reduced behavioural response towards bitter-tasting compounds. To test whether bitter taste receptor genes (T2Rs) have been relaxed from selective constraint in vampire bats, we sampled all three vampire bat species and 11 non-vampire bats, and sequenced nine one-to-one orthologous T2Rs that are assumed to be functionally conserved in all bats. We generated 85 T2R sequences and found that vampire bats have a significantly greater percentage of pseudogenes than other bats. These results strongly suggest a relaxation of selective constraint and a reduction of bitter taste function in vampire bats. We also found that vampire bats retain many intact T2Rs, and that the taste signalling pathway gene Calhm1 remains complete and intact with strong functional constraint. These results suggest the presence of some bitter taste function in vampire bats, although it is not likely to play a major role in food selection. Together, our study suggests that the evolutionary reduction of bitter taste function in animals is more pervasive than previously believed, and highlights the importance of extra-oral functions of taste receptor genes.
Project description:T2Rs (bitter taste-sensing type 2 receptors) are expressed in the oral cavity to prevent ingestion of dietary toxins through taste avoidance. They are also expressed in other cell types, including gut enteroendocrine cells, where their physiological role is enigmatic. Previously, we proposed that T2R-dependent CCK (cholecystokinin) secretion from enteroendocrine cells limits absorption of dietary toxins, but an active mechanism was lacking. In the present study we show that T2R signalling activates ABCB1 (ATP-binding cassette B1) in intestinal cells through a CCK signalling mechanism. PTC (phenylthiocarbamide), an agonist for the T2R38 bitter receptor, increased ABCB1 expression in both intestinal cells and mouse intestine. PTC induction of ABCB1 was decreased by either T2R38 siRNA (small interfering RNA) or treatment with YM022, a gastrin receptor antagonist. Thus gut ABCB1 is regulated through signalling by CCK/gastrin released in response to PTC stimulation of T2R38 on enteroendocrine cells. We also show that PTC increases the efflux activity of ABCB1, suggesting that T2R signalling limits the absorption of bitter tasting/toxic substances through modulation of gut efflux membrane transporters.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>Sensing bitter tastes is crucial for many animals because it can prevent them from ingesting harmful foods. This process is mainly mediated by the bitter taste receptors (T2R), which are largely expressed in the taste buds. Previous studies have identified some T2R gene repertoires, and marked variation in repertoire size has been noted among species. However, the mechanisms underlying the evolution of vertebrate T2R genes remain poorly understood.<h4>Results</h4>To better understand the evolutionary pattern of these genes, we identified 16 T2R gene repertoires based on the high coverage genome sequences of vertebrates and studied the evolutionary changes in the number of T2R genes during birth-and-death evolution using the reconciled-tree method. We found that the number of T2R genes and the fraction of pseudogenes vary extensively among species. Based on the results of phylogenetic analysis, we showed that T2R gene families in teleost fishes are more diverse than those in tetrapods. In addition to the independent gene expansions in teleost fishes, frogs and mammals, lineage-specific gene duplications were also detected in lizards. Furthermore, extensive gains and losses of T2R genes were detected in each lineage during their evolution, resulting in widely differing T2R gene repertoires.<h4>Conclusion</h4>These results further support the hypotheses that T2R gene repertoires are closely related to the dietary habits of different species and that birth-and-death evolution is associated with adaptations to dietary changes.
Project description:Lineage-specific gene losses can be driven by selection or environmental adaptations. However, a lack of studies on the original function of species-specific pseudogenes leaves a gap in our understanding of their role in evolutionary histories. Pseudogenes are of particular relevance for taste perception genes, which encode for receptors that confer the ability to both identify nutritionally valuable substances and avoid potentially harmful substances. To explore the role of bitter taste pseudogenization events in human origins, we restored the open reading frames of the three human-specific pseudogenes and synthesized the reconstructed functional hTAS2R2, hTAS2R62 and hTAS2R64 receptors. We have identified ligands that differentially activate the human and chimpanzee forms of these receptors and several other human functional TAS2Rs. We show that these receptors are narrowly tuned, suggesting that bitter-taste sensitivities evolved independently in different species, and that these pseudogenization events occurred because of functional redundancy. The restoration of function of lineage-specific pseudogenes can aid in the reconstruction of their evolutionary history, and in understanding the forces that led to their pseudogenization.
Project description:Bitter taste-sensing G protein-coupled receptors (type 2 taste receptors [T2Rs]) are expressed in taste receptor cells of the tongue, where they play an important role in limiting ingestion of bitter-tasting, potentially toxic compounds. T2Rs are also expressed in gut-derived enteroendocrine cells, where they have also been hypothesized to play a role in limiting toxin absorption. In this study, we have shown that T2R gene expression in both cultured mouse enteroendocrine cells and mouse intestine is regulated by the cholesterol-sensitive SREBP-2. In addition, T2R stimulation of cholecystokinin (CCK) secretion was enhanced directly by SREBP-2 in cultured cells and in mice fed chow supplemented with lovastatin and ezetimibe (L/E) to decrease dietary sterol absorption and increase nuclear activity of SREBP-2. Low-cholesterol diets are naturally composed of high amounts of plant matter that is likely to contain dietary toxins, and CCK is known to improve dietary absorption of fats, slow gastric emptying, and decrease food intake. Thus, these studies suggest that SREBP-2 activation of bitter signaling receptors in the intestine may sensitize the gut to a low-fat diet and to potential accompanying food-borne toxins that make it past the initial aversive response in the mouth.
Project description:Human bitter taste receptors are encoded by a gene family consisting of 25 functional TAS2R loci. In addition, humans carry 11 TAS2R pseudogenes, some of which display evidence for substantial diversification among species, showing lineage-specific loss of function. Since bitter taste is thought to help prevent the intake of toxic substances, diversity at TAS2R genes could reflect the action of natural selection on the ability to recognize some bitter compounds rather than others. Whether species-specific variation in TAS2R pseudogenes is solely the result of genetic drift or whether it may have been influenced by selection due to different feeding behaviors has been an open question.In this study, we analyzed patterns of variation at human TAS2R pseudogenes in both African and non-African populations, and compared them to those observable in nonhuman primates and archaic human species. Our results showed a similar worldwide distribution of allelic variation for most of the pseudogenes, with the exception of the TAS2R6P and TAS2R18P loci, both of which presented an unexpected higher frequency of derived alleles outside Africa. At the TAS2R6P locus, two SNPs were found in strong linkage disequilibrium (r2?>?0.9) with variants in the functional TAS2R5 gene, which showed signatures of selection. The human TAS2R18P carried a species-specific stop-codon upstream of four polymorphic insertions in the reading frame. SNPs at this locus showed significant positive values in a number of neutrality statistics, and age estimates indicated that they arose after the homo-chimp divergence.The similar distribution of variation of many human bitter receptor pseudogenes among human populations suggests that they arose from the ancestral forms by a unidirectional loss of function. However we explain the higher frequency of TAS2R6P derived alleles outside Africa as the effect of the balancing selection acting on the closely linked TAS2R5 gene. In contrast, TAS2R18P displayed a more complex history, suggesting an acquired function followed by a recent pseudogenization that predated the divergence of human modern and archaic species, which we hypothesize was associated with adaptions to dietary changes.
Project description:The 25 human bitter taste receptors (hT2Rs) recognize thousands of structurally and chemically diverse bitter substances. The binding modes of human bitter taste receptors hT2R10 and hT2R46, which are responsible for strychnine recognition, were previously established using site-directed mutagenesis, functional assays, and molecular modeling. Here we construct a phylogenetic tree and reconstruct ancestral sequences of the T2R10 and T2R46 clades. We next analyze the binding sites in view of experimental data to predict their ability to recognize strychnine. This analysis suggests that the common ancestor of hT2R10 and hT2R46 is unlikely to bind strychnine in the same mode as either of its two descendants. Estimation of relative divergence times shows that hT2R10 evolved earlier than hT2R46. Strychnine recognition was likely acquired first by the earliest common ancestor of the T2R10 clade before the separation of primates from other mammals, and was highly conserved within the clade. It was probably independently acquired by the common ancestor of T2R43-47 before the homo-ape speciation, lost in most T2Rs within this clade, but enhanced in the hT2R46 after humans diverged from the rest of primates. Our findings suggest hypothetical strychnine T2R receptors in several species, and serve as an experimental guide for further study. Improved understanding of how bitter taste receptors acquire the ability to be activated by particular ligands is valuable for the development of sensors for bitterness and for potential toxicity.
Project description:Cycloheximide (CyX), a toxic antibiotic with a unique chemical structure generated by the actinomycete, Streptomyces griseus, has emerged as a primary focus of studies on mammalian bitter taste. Rats and mice avoid it at concentrations well below the thresholds for most bitter stimuli and T2R G-protein-coupled receptors specific for CyX with appropriate sensitivity are identified for those species. Like mouse and rat, golden hamsters, Mesocricetus auratus, also detected and rejected micromolar levels of CyX, although 1mM CyX failed to activate the hamster chorda tympani nerve. Hamsters showed an initial tolerance for 500microM CyX, but after that, avoidance of CyX dramatically increased, plasticity not reported for rat or mouse. As the hamster lineage branches well before division of the mouse-rat lineage in evolutionary time, differences between hamster and mouse-rat reactions to CyX are not surprising. Furthermore, unlike hamster LiCl-induced learned aversions, the induced CyX aversion neither specifically nor robustly generalized to other non-ionic bitter stimuli; and unlike adverse reactions to other chemosensory stimuli, aversions to CyX were not mollified by adding a sweetener. Thus, CyX is unlike other bitter stimuli. The gene for the high-affinity CyX receptor is a member of a cluster of five orthologous T2R genes that are likely rodent-specific; this "CyX clade" is found in the mouse, rat and probably hamster, but not in the human or rabbit genome. The rodent CyX-T2R interaction may be one of multiple lineage-specific stimulus-receptor interactions reflecting a response to a particular environmental toxin. The combination of T2R multiplicity, species divergence and gene duplication results in diverse ligands for multiple species-specific T2R receptors, which confounds definition of 'bitter' stimuli across species.
Project description:Nectar may contain many secondary metabolites that are commonly toxic and bitter-tasting. It has been hypothesized that such bitter-tasting secondary metabolites might keep the nectar exclusive to only a few pollinators. To test this hypothesis, we examined functional changes of bitter taste receptor genes (Tas2rs) in a species of nectar-feeding bird (Anna's hummingbird) by comparing these genes with those from two closely related insect-feeding species (chimney swift and chuck-will's widow). We previously identified a larger number of Tas2rs in the hummingbird than in its close insectivorous relatives. In the present study, we demonstrate higher sensitivity and new functions in the hummingbird Tas2r gene copies generated by a lineage-specific duplication, which has been shaped by positive selection. These results suggest that the bitter taste may lead to increased sensitivities and specialized abilities of the hummingbird to detect bitter-tasting nectar. Moreover, this study potentially supports the hypothesis that bitter-tasting nectar may have been specialized for some pollinators, thus enforcing plant-pollinator mutualism.