Missing link in taste chain identified

Posted Dated : Wednesday September 25, 2013, 12:00:00

When something leaves a bad taste in your mouth — or a good one — you might blame a newly pinpointed protein. Experiments using mice have revealed a key player in the chain of events that lets the brain know what the tongue has tasted.

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Kevin Foskett of the University of Pennsylvania and colleagues found that the protein Calhm1 sits on bitter, sweet and umami taste cells. It serves as a gateway, releasing a flood of molecules from the cell when alerted to the taste of one of the three flavors. Those released molecules — ATP, typically an energy source for cells — may be the final of several messengers in a chain that activates the brain’s taste-sensing nerves, the researchers found.