Structural requirements of bitter taste receptor activation

Anne Brockhoff, Maik Behrens, Masha Y. Niv, Wolfgang Meyerhof*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

143 Scopus citations


An important question in taste research is how 25 receptors of the human TAS2R family detect thousands of structurally diverse compounds. An answer to this question may arise from the observation that TAS2Rs in general are broadly tuned to interact with numerous substances. Ultimately, interaction with chemically diverse agonists requires architectures of binding pockets tailored to combine flexibility with selectivity. The present study determines the structure of hTAS2R binding pockets. We focused on a subfamily of closely related hTAS2Rs exhibiting pronounced amino acid sequence identities but unique agonist activation spectra. The generation of chimeric and mutant receptors followed by calcium imaging analyses identified receptor regions and amino acid residues critical for activation of hTAS2R46, -R43, and -R31. We found that the carboxyl-terminal regions of the investigated receptors are crucial for agonist selectivity. Intriguingly, exchanging two residues located in transmembrane domain seven between hTAS2R46, activated by strychnine, and hTAS2R31, activated by aristolochic acid, was sufficient to invert agonist selectivity. Further mutagenesis revealed additional positions involved in agonist interaction. The transfer of functionally relevant amino acids identified in hTAS2R46 to the corresponding positions of hTAS2R43 and -R31 resulted in pharmacological properties indistinguishable from the parental hTAS2R46. In silico modeling of hTAS2R46 allowed us to visualize the putative mode of interaction between agonists and hTAS2Rs. Detailed structure-function analyses of hTAS2Rs may ultimately pave the way for the development of specific antagonists urgently needed for more sophisticated analyses of human bitter taste perception.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)11110-11115
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number24
StatePublished - 15 Jun 2010


  • Calcium imaging
  • G protein-coupled receptors
  • hTAS2R


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