Probing the Evolutionary History of Human Bitter Taste Receptor Pseudogenes by Restoring Their Function.
ABSTRACT: 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: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: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:One key to animal survival is the detection and avoidance of potentially harmful compounds by their bitter taste. Variable numbers of taste 2 receptor genes expressed in the gustatory end organs enable bony vertebrates (Euteleostomi) to recognize numerous bitter chemicals. It is believed that the receptive ranges of bitter taste receptor repertoires match the profiles of bitter chemicals that the species encounter in their diets. Human and mouse genomes contain pairs of orthologous bitter receptor genes that have been conserved throughout evolution. Moreover, expansions in both lineages generated species-specific sets of bitter taste receptor genes. It is assumed that the orthologous bitter taste receptor genes mediate the recognition of bitter toxins relevant for both species, whereas the lineage-specific receptors enable the detection of substances differently encountered by mice and humans. By challenging 34 mouse bitter taste receptors with 128 prototypical bitter substances in a heterologous expression system, we identified cognate compounds for 21 receptors, 19 of which were previously orphan receptors. We have demonstrated that mouse taste 2 receptors, like their human counterparts, vary greatly in their breadth of tuning, ranging from very broadly to extremely narrowly tuned receptors. However, when compared with humans, mice possess fewer broadly tuned receptors and an elevated number of narrowly tuned receptors, supporting the idea that a large receptor repertoire is the basis for the evolution of specialized receptors. Moreover, we have demonstrated that sequence-orthologous bitter taste receptors have distinct agonist profiles. Species-specific gene expansions have enabled further diversification of bitter substance recognition spectra.
Project description:Bitter taste stimuli are detected by a diverse family of G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) expressed in gustatory cells. Each bitter taste receptor (TAS2R) responds to an array of compounds, many of which are toxic and can be found in nature. For example, human TAS2R16 (hTAS2R16) responds to ?-glucosides such as salicin, and hTAS2R38 responds to thiourea-containing molecules such as glucosinolates and phenylthiocarbamide (PTC). While many substances are known to activate TAS2Rs, only one inhibitor that specifically blocks bitter receptor activation has been described. Here, we describe a new inhibitor of bitter taste receptors, p-(dipropylsulfamoyl)benzoic acid (probenecid), that acts on a subset of TAS2Rs and inhibits through a novel, allosteric mechanism of action. Probenecid is an FDA-approved inhibitor of the Multidrug Resistance Protein 1 (MRP1) transporter and is clinically used to treat gout in humans. Probenecid is also commonly used to enhance cellular signals in GPCR calcium mobilization assays. We show that probenecid specifically inhibits the cellular response mediated by the bitter taste receptor hTAS2R16 and provide molecular and pharmacological evidence for direct interaction with this GPCR using a non-competitive (allosteric) mechanism. Through a comprehensive analysis of hTAS2R16 point mutants, we define amino acid residues involved in the probenecid interaction that result in decreased sensitivity to probenecid while maintaining normal responses to salicin. Probenecid inhibits hTAS2R16, hTAS2R38, and hTAS2R43, but does not inhibit the bitter receptor hTAS2R31 or non-TAS2R GPCRs. Additionally, structurally unrelated MRP1 inhibitors, such as indomethacin, fail to inhibit hTAS2R16 function. Finally, we demonstrate that the inhibitory activity of probenecid in cellular experiments translates to inhibition of bitter taste perception of salicin in humans. This work identifies probenecid as a pharmacological tool for understanding the cell biology of bitter taste and as a lead for the development of broad specificity bitter blockers to improve nutrition and medical compliance.
Project description:Caffeine, generally known as a stimulant of gastric acid secretion (GAS), is a bitter-tasting compound that activates several taste type 2 bitter receptors (TAS2Rs). TAS2Rs are expressed in the mouth and in several extraoral sites, e.g., in the gastrointestinal tract, in which their functional role still needs to be clarified. We hypothesized that caffeine evokes effects on GAS by activation of oral and gastric TAS2Rs and demonstrate that caffeine, when administered encapsulated, stimulates GAS, whereas oral administration of a caffeine solution delays GAS in healthy human subjects. Correlation analysis of data obtained from ingestion of the caffeine solution revealed an association between the magnitude of the GAS response and the perceived bitterness, suggesting a functional role of oral TAS2Rs in GAS. Expression of TAS2Rs, including cognate TAS2Rs for caffeine, was shown in human gastric epithelial cells of the corpus/fundus and in HGT-1 cells, a model for the study of GAS. In HGT-1 cells, various bitter compounds as well as caffeine stimulated proton secretion, whereby the caffeine-evoked effect was (i) shown to depend on one of its cognate receptor, TAS2R43, and adenylyl cyclase; and (ii) reduced by homoeriodictyol (HED), a known inhibitor of caffeine's bitter taste. This inhibitory effect of HED on caffeine-induced GAS was verified in healthy human subjects. These findings (i) demonstrate that bitter taste receptors in the stomach and the oral cavity are involved in the regulation of GAS and (ii) suggest that bitter tastants and bitter-masking compounds could be potentially useful therapeutics to regulate gastric pH.
Project description:BACKGROUND:New World monkeys (NWMs) are unique in that they exhibit remarkable interspecific variation in color vision and feeding behavior, making them an excellent model for studying sensory ecology. However, it is largely unknown whether non-visual senses co-vary with feeding ecology, especially gustation, which is expected to be indispensable in food selection. Bitter taste, which is mediated by bitter taste receptors (TAS2Rs) in the tongue, helps organisms avoid ingesting potentially toxic substances in food. In this study, we compared the ligand sensitivities of the TAS2Rs of five species of NWMs by heterologous expression in HEK293T cells and calcium imaging. RESULTS:We found that TAS2R1 and TAS2R4 orthologs differ in sensitivity among the NWM species for colchicine and camphor, respectively. We then reconstructed the ancestral receptors of NWM TAS2R1 and TAS2R4, measured the evolutionary shift in ligand sensitivity, and identified the amino acid replacement at residue 62 as responsible for the high sensitivity of marmoset TAS2R4 to colchicine. CONCLUSIONS:Our results provide a basis for understanding the differences in feeding ecology among NWMs with respect to bitter taste.
Project description:Bitter taste is a basic taste modality, required to safeguard animals against consuming toxic substances. Bitter compounds are recognized by G-protein-coupled bitter taste receptors (TAS2Rs). The human TAS2R10 responds to the toxic strychnine and numerous other compounds. The mechanism underlying the development of the broad tuning of some TAS2Rs is not understood. Using comparative modeling, site-directed mutagenesis, and functional assays, we identified residues involved in agonist-induced activation of TAS2R10, and investigated the effects of different substitutions on the receptor's response profile. Most interestingly, mutations in S85(3.29) and Q175(5.40) have differential impact on stimulation with different agonists. The fact that single point mutations lead to improved responses for some agonists and to decreased activation by others indicates that the binding site has evolved to optimally accommodate multiple agonists at the expense of reduced potency. TAS2R10 shares the agonist strychnine with TAS2R46, another broadly tuned receptor. Engineering the key determinants for TAS2R46 activation by strychnine in TAS2R10 caused a loss of response to strychnine, indicating that these paralog receptors display different strychnine-binding modes, which suggests independent acquisition of agonist specificities. This implies that the gene duplication event preceding primate speciation was accompanied by independent evolution of the strychnine-binding sites.
Project description:BitterX is an open-access tool aimed at providing a platform for identifying human bitter taste receptors, TAS2Rs, for small molecules. It predicts TAS2Rs from the molecular structures of arbitrary chemicals by integrating two individual functionalities: bitterant verification and TAS2R recognition. Using BitterX, several novel bitterants and their receptors were predicted and experimentally validated in the study. Therefore, BitterX may be an effective method for deciphering bitter taste coding and could be a useful tool for both basic bitter research in academia and new bitterant discoveries in the industry.
Project description:The integumentary (i.e., skin) and gustatory systems both function to protect the human body and are a first point of contact with poisons and pathogens. These systems may share a similar protective mechanism because, as we show here, both human taste and skin cells express mRNA for bitter 'taste' receptors (TAS2Rs). We used gene-specific methods to measure mRNA from all known bitter receptor genes in adult human skin from freshly biopsied samples and from samples collected at autopsy from the Genotype-Tissue Expression project. Human skin expressed some but not all TAS2Rs, and for those that were expressed, the relative amounts differed markedly among individuals. For some TAS2Rs, mRNA abundance was related to presumed sun exposure based on the location from which the skin sample was collected (TAS2R14, TAS2R30, TAS2R42, and TAS2R60), sex (TAS2R3, TAS2R4, TAS2R8, TAS2R9, TAS2R14, and TAS2R60), and age (TAS2R5), although these effects were not large. These findings contribute to our understanding of extraoral expression of chemosensory receptors.
Project description:Taste receptors (TASRs) are expressed not only in the oral cavity but also throughout the body, thus suggesting that they may play different roles in organ systems beyond the tongue. Recent studies showed the expression of several TASRs in mammalian testis and sperm, indicating an involvement of these receptors in male gametogenesis and fertility. This notion is supported by an impaired reproductive phenotype of mouse carrying targeted deletion of taste receptor genes, as well as by a significant correlation between human semen parameters and specific polymorphisms of taste receptor genes. To better understand the biological and thus clinical significance of these receptors for human reproduction, we analyzed the expression of several members of the TAS2Rs family of bitter receptors in human testis and in ejaculated sperm before and after in vitro selection and capacitation. Our results provide evidence for the expression of TAS2R genes, with TAS2R14 being the most expressed bitter receptor subtype in both testis tissue and sperm cells, respectively. In addition, it was observed that in vitro capacitation significantly affects both the expression and the subcellular localization of these receptors in isolated spermatozoa. Interestingly, ?-gustducin and ?-transducin, two G? subunits expressed in taste buds on the tongue, are also expressed in human spermatozoa; moreover, a subcellular redistribution of both G protein ?-subunits to different sub-compartments of sperm was registered upon in vitro capacitation. Finally, we shed light on the possible downstream transduction pathway initiated upon taste receptor activation in the male reproductive system. Performing ultrasensitive droplets digital PCR assays to quantify RNA copy numbers of a distinct gene, we found a significant correlation between the expression of TAS2Rs and TRPM5 (r = 0.87), the cation channel involved in bitter but also sweet and umami taste transduction in taste buds on the tongue. Even if further studies are needed to clarify the precise functional role of taste receptors for successful reproduction, the presented findings significantly extend our knowledge of the biological role of TAS2Rs for human male fertility.