Scientists have discovered a new compound that inhibits the bitterness by acting directly on a subset of bitter taste molecules.
"Bitter taste is a major problem for pediatric drug compliance and also for proper nutrition, such as eating those healthy but bitter green vegetables," said Monell senior author Paul Breslin, a sensory biologist.
Bitterness is detected by a family of approximately 25 different taste receptors called TAS2Rs. Together, the TAS2Rs respond to a broad array of structurally different compounds, many of which are found in nature and can be toxic.
In a serendipitous discovery, the researchers found that probenecid, a molecule frequently used in receptor assays, is an inhibitor of a subset of bitter taste receptors. Probenecid also is an FDA-approved therapeutic for gout.
"Probenecid's mechanism of action makes it a useful tool for understanding how bitter receptors function. This knowledge will help us develop more potent bitter taste inhibitors," said Integral Molecular senior author Joseph B. Rucker.
A series of human sensory studies established that probenecid robustly inhibited the bitter taste of salicin, a compound that stimulates one of the target receptors.
The study was published in PLoS ONE.