Fresh insight into how taste buds sense flavours
Washington, March 7 : Unravelling what was pretty much a mystery until now, a new study has revealed how cells transmit taste information to the brain for sweet, bitter and savoury flavours.
A team of researchers from nine institutions discovered how ATP - the body's main fuel source - is released as the neurotransmitter from sweet, bitter, and umami (savory) taste bud cells.
The CALHM1 channel protein, which spans a taste bud cell's outer membrane to allow ions and molecules in and out, releases ATP to make a neural taste connection. The other two taste types, sour and salt, use different mechanisms to send taste information to the brain, reports Science Daily.
Kevin Foskett, professor of physiology at the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, and colleagues from the Monell Chemical Senses Center, the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, and others, describe in Nature that how ATP release is key to this sensory information path.
They found that the calcium homeostasis modulator 1 (CALHM1) protein, recently identified by Foskett's lab as a novel ion channel, is indispensable for taste via release of ATP.
"This is an example of a bona fide ATP ion channel with a clear physiological function," says Foskett.
"Now we can connect the molecular dots of sweet and other tastes to the brain," adds Foskett.