Functional divergence of bitter taste receptors in a nectar-feeding bird.
ABSTRACT: 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.
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:Dysregulation of thyroid hormones triiodothyronine and thyroxine (T3/T4) can impact metabolism, body composition, and development. Thus, it is critical to identify novel mechanisms that impact T3/T4 production. We found that type 2 taste receptors (TAS2Rs), which are activated by bitter-tasting compounds such as those found in many foods and pharmaceuticals, negatively regulate thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH)-dependent Ca(2+) increases and TSH-dependent iodide efflux in thyrocytes. Immunohistochemical Tas2r-dependent reporter expression and real-time PCR analyses reveal that human and mouse thyrocytes and the Nthy-Ori 3-1 human thyrocyte line express several TAS2Rs. Five different agonists for thyrocyte-expressed TAS2Rs reduced TSH-dependent Ca(2+) release in Nthy-Ori 3-1 cells, but not basal Ca(2+) levels, in a dose-dependent manner. Ca(2+) responses were unaffected by 6-n-propylthiouracil, consistent with the expression of an unresponsive variant of its cognate receptor, TAS2R38, in these cells. TAS2R agonists also inhibited basal and TSH-dependent iodide efflux. Furthermore, a common TAS2R42 polymorphism is associated with increased serum T4 levels in a human cohort. Our findings indicate that TAS2Rs couple the detection of bitter-tasting compounds to changes in thyrocyte function and T3/T4 production. Thus, TAS2Rs may mediate a protective response to overingestion of toxic materials and could serve as new druggable targets for therapeutic treatment of hypo- or hyperthyroidism.
Project description:The detection of bitter-tasting compounds by the gustatory system is thought to alert animals to the presence of potentially toxic food. Some, if not all, bitter stimuli activate specific taste receptors, the T2Rs, which are expressed in subsets of taste receptor cells on the tongue and palate. However, there is evidence for both receptor-dependent and -independent transduction mechanisms for a number of bitter stimuli, including quinine hydrochloride (QHCl) and denatonium benzoate (DB).We used brief-access behavioral taste testing of BXD/Ty recombinant inbred (RI) mouse strains to map the major quantitative trait locus (QTL) for taste sensitivity to QHCl. This QTL is restricted to a ~5 Mb interval on chromosome 6 that includes 24 genes encoding T2Rs (Tas2rs). Tas2rs at this locus display in total 307 coding region single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) between the two BXD/Ty RI parental strains, C57BL/6J (quinine-sensitive) and DBA/2J (quinine insensitive); approximately 50% of these mutations are silent. Individual RI lines contain exclusively either C57BL/6J or DBA/2J Tas2r alleles at this locus, and RI lines containing C57BL/6J Tas2r alleles are more sensitive to QHCl than are lines containing DBA/2J alleles. Thus, the entire Tas2r cluster comprises a large haplotype that correlates with quinine taster status.These studies, the first using a taste-salient assay to map the major QTL for quinine taste, indicate that a T2R-dependent transduction cascade is responsible for the majority of strain variance in quinine taste sensitivity. Furthermore, the large number of polymorphisms within coding exons of the Tas2r cluster, coupled with evidence that inbred strains exhibit largely similar bitter taste phenotypes, suggest that T2R receptors are quite tolerant to variation.
Project description:Although bitter taste receptors (TAS2Rs) are important for human health, little is known of the determinants of ligand specificity. TAS2Rs such as TAS2R16 help define gustatory perception and dietary preferences that ultimately influence human health and disease. Each TAS2R must accommodate a broad diversity of chemical structures while simultaneously achieving high specificity so that diverse bitter toxins can be detected without all foods tasting bitter. However, how these G protein-coupled receptors achieve this balance is poorly understood. Here we used a comprehensive mutation library of human TAS2R16 to map its interactions with existing and novel agonists. We identified 13 TAS2R16 residues that contribute to ligand specificity and 38 residues whose mutation eliminated signal transduction by all ligands, providing a comprehensive assessment of how this GPCR binds and signals. Our data suggest a model in which hydrophobic residues on TM3 and TM7 form a broad ligand-binding pocket that can accommodate the diverse structural features of ?-glycoside ligands while still achieving high specificity.
Project description:In increasingly urban landscapes, the loss of native pollen and nectar floral resources is impacting ecologically important pollinators. Increased urbanization has also brought about the rise of urban gardens which introduce new floral resources that may help replace those the pollinators have lost. Recently, studies have shown that the microbial communities of nectar may play an important role in plant-pollinator interactions, but these microbial communities and the floral visitors in urban environments are poorly studied. In this study we characterized the floral visitors and nectar microbial communities of Ascelpias curassavica, a non-native tropical milkweed commonly, in an urban environment. We found that the majority of the floral visitors to A. curassavica were honey bees followed closely by monarch butterflies. We also found that there were several unique visitors to each site, such as ants, wasps, solitary bees, several species of butterflies and moths, Anna's hummingbird, and the tarantula hawk wasp. Significant differences in the nectar bacterial alpha and beta diversity were found across the urban sites, although we found no significant differences among the fungal communities. We found that the differences in the bacterial communities were more likely due to the environment and floral visitors rather than physiological differences in the plants growing at the gardens. Greater understanding of the impact of urbanization on the nectar microbiome of urban floral resources and consequently their effect on plant-pollinator relationships will help to predict how these relationships will change with urbanization, and how negative impacts can be mitigated through better management of the floral composition in urban gardens.
Project description:Bitter taste receptors (TAS2Rs or T2Rs) belong to the superfamily of seven-transmembrane G protein-coupled receptors, which are the targets of >50% of drugs currently on the market. Canonically, T2Rs are located in taste buds of the tongue, where they initiate bitter taste perception. However, accumulating evidence indicates that T2Rs are widely expressed throughout the body and mediate diverse nontasting roles through various specialized mechanisms. It has also become apparent that T2Rs and their polymorphisms are associated with human disorders. In this review, we summarize the physiological and pathophysiological roles that extraoral T2Rs play in processes as diverse as innate immunity and reproduction, and the major challenges in this emerging field.
Project description:Electrostatic phenomena are known to enhance both wind- and insect-mediated pollination, but have not yet been described for nectar-feeding vertebrates. Here we demonstrate that wild Anna's Hummingbirds (Calypte anna) can carry positive charges up to 800 pC while in flight (mean ± s.d.: 66 ± 129 pC). Triboelectric charging obtained by rubbing an isolated hummingbird wing against various plant structures generated charges up to 700 pC. A metal hummingbird model charged to 400 pC induced bending of floral stamens in four plants (Nicotiana, Hemerocallis, Penstemon, and Aloe spp.), and also attracted falling Lycopodium spores at distances of < 2 mm. Electrostatic forces may therefore influence pollen transfer onto nectar-feeding birds.
Project description:The concept that gut nutrient sensing involves taste receptors has been fueled by recent reports associating the expression of taste receptors and taste-associated signaling molecules in the gut and in gut-derived cell lines with physiological responses induced by known taste stimuli. However, for bitter taste receptors (Tas2rs), direct evidence for their functional role in gut physiology is scarce and their cellular expression pattern remained unknown. We therefore investigated Tas2r expression in mice. RT-PCR experiments assessed the presence of mRNA for Tas2rs and taste signaling molecules in the gut. A gene-targeted mouse strain was established to visualize and identify cell types expressing the bitter receptor Tas2r131. Messenger RNA for various Tas2rs and taste signaling molecules were detected by RT-PCR in the gut. Using our knock-in mouse strain we demonstrate that a subset of colonic goblet cells express Tas2r131. Cells that express this receptor are absent in the upper gut and do not correspond to enteroendocrine and brush cells. Expression in colonic goblet cells is consistent with a role of Tas2rs in defense mechanisms against potentially harmful xenobiotics.
Project description:Previous investigations have highlighted the importance of genetic variation in the determination of bitter tasting ability, however have left unaddressed questions as to within group variation in tasting ability or the possibility of genetic prescription of intermediate tasting ability. Our aim was to examine the relationships between bitter tasting ability and variation at the TAS2R38 locus and to assess the role of psychosocial factors in explaining residual, within group, variation in tasting ability.In a large sample of children from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, we confirmed an association between bitter compound tasting ability and TAS2R38 variation and found evidence of a genetic association with intermediate tasting ability. Antisocial behaviour, social class and depression showed no consistent relationship with the distribution of taste test scores.Factors which could influence a child's chosen taste score, extra to taste receptor variation, appeared not to show relationships with test score. Observed spread in the distribution of the taste test scores within hypothesised taster groups, is likely to be, or at least in part, due to physiological differentiation regulated by other genetic contributors. Results confirm relationships between genetic variation and bitter compound tasting ability in a large sample, and suggest that TAS2R38 variation may also be associated with intermediate tasting ability.
Project description:As they belong to the most species-rich class of tetrapod vertebrates, birds have long been believed to possess an inferior taste system. However, the bitter taste is fundamental in birds to recognize dietary toxins (which are typically bitter) in potential food sources. To characterize the evolution of avian bitter taste receptor genes (Tas2rs) and to test whether dietary toxins have shaped the repertoire size of avian Tas2rs, we examined 48 genomes representing all but 3 avian orders. The total number of Tas2r genes was found to range from 1 in the domestic pigeon to 12 in the bar-tailed trogon, with an average of 4, which suggested that a much smaller Tas2r gene repertoire exists in birds than in other vertebrates. Furthermore, we uncovered a positive correlation between the number of putatively functional Tas2rs and the abundance of potential toxins in avian diets. Because plant products contain more toxins than animal tissues and insects release poisonous defensive secretions, we hypothesized that herbivorous and insectivorous birds may demand more functional Tas2rs than carnivorous birds feeding on noninsect animals. Our analyses appear to support this hypothesis and highlight the critical role of taste perception in birds.