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Concept: TAS2R38


BACKGROUND: We recently demonstrated the bitter taste receptor T2R38 upregulates sinonasal mucosal innate defense in response to gram-negative quorum-sensing molecules through increased nitric oxide production and mucociliary clearance. T2R38 was initially identified in the quest to understand the variability in bitter taste perception to the compound phenylthiocarbamide (PTC) and demonstrated to have polymorphisms generating diplotypes dividing people into PTC supertasters, heterozygotes (with variable PTC detection), and nontasters. We have further demonstrated that sinonasal epithelial cultures derived from supertasters significantly increase innate defenses in response to gram-negative quorum-sensing molecules compared with sinonasal cultures derived from heterozygotes and nontaster individuals. Based on this data, we hypothesize that supertasters are less likely to require sinus surgery compared with heterozygous or nontasters and that supertasters have improved surgical outcomes. METHODS: Banked sinonasal tissue samples from patients who had undergone primary functional endoscopic sinus surgery at the University of Pennsylvania or the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center were genotyped for T2R38 and compared to the expected population distribution. Necessity for additional antibiotic therapy following the postoperative healing time frame was evaluated. RESULTS: A total of 28 patients were included in the study. Only 1 supertaster was identified (expected 5.6, p < 0.043). Additionally, 14 heterozygous and 13 nontaster patients were identified. CONCLUSION: This pilot study investigating the genetics of the bitter taste receptor T2R38 in the context of primary sinonasal surgery demonstrates supertaster patients are less likely to need surgical intervention for chronic rhinosinusitis. Additional study is necessary to ascertain postsurgical outcomes.

Concepts: Surgery, Sinusitis, Taste, Nitric oxide, Functional Endoscopic Sinus Surgery, Supertaster, Phenylthiocarbamide, TAS2R38


The human population displays high variation in taste perception. Differences in individual taste sensitivity may also impact on nutrient intake and overall appetite. A well-characterized example is the variable perception of bitter compounds such as 6-n-propylthiouracil (PROP) and phenylthiocarbamide (PTC), which can be accounted for at the molecular level by polymorphic variants in the specific type 2 taste receptor (TAS2R38). This phenotypic variation has been associated with influencing dietary preference and other behaviors, although the generalization of PROP/PTC taster status as a predictor of sensitivity to other tastes is controversial. Here, we proposed that the taste sensitivities of different bitter compounds would be correlated only when they activate the same bitter taste receptor. Thirty-four volunteers were exposed to 8 bitter compounds that were selected based on their potential to activate overlapping and distinct repertoires of TAS2Rs. Taste intensity ratings were evaluated using the general Labeled Magnitude Scale. Our data demonstrate a strong interaction between the intensity for bitter substances when they activate common TAS2Rs. Consequently, PROP/PTC sensitivity was not a reliable predictor of general bitter sensitivity. In addition, our findings provide a novel framework to predict taste sensitivity based on their specific T2R activation profile.

Concepts: Psychology, Human, Natural selection, Molecular biology, Sense, Taste, Phenylthiocarbamide, TAS2R38


Alcohol intake has been associated with the bitter taste receptor T2R38. TAS2R38 gene expresses two common haplotypes: PAV and AVI. It has been reported that AVI homozygotes consume more alcohol than heterozygotes and PAV homozygotes. The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence of the TAS2R38 haplotypes among Mexican-Mestizo population and to analyze its association with alcohol intake.

Concepts: Classical genetics, Taste, Haplotype, HLA A1-B8-DR3-DQ2, TAS2R38