Psychophysical dissection of genotype effects on human bitter perception

Julie A. Mennella, Marta Yanina Pepino, Fujiko F. Duke, Danielle R. Reed

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The purpose of this study was to define the effects of individual polymorphisms within the haplotypes of the TAS2R38 taste receptor gene on human bitter taste perception. A racially and ethnically diverse sample of children and adults (N = 980) was phenotyped for thresholds of 6-n-propylthiouracil (PROP) and genotyped for 3 polymorphisms of the TAS2R38 gene (A49P, V262A, I296V). Subjects were grouped according to their diplotype (i.e., specific combinations of haplotypes) and compared for PROP thresholds. By contrasting subjects with particular diplotypes, we found that in addition to A49P, V262A and I296V were related to the ability of the subjects to detect PROP. The V262A variant site affected the ability of subjects to detect midrange concentrations of PROP, whereas the I296V variant site affected the ability of subjects to perceive PROP at the lowest concentration. These data agree with results from previous studies using cell-based assays for 2 variant sites (A49P and V262A) but not those for the I296V variant site. The reason for the discordant results is not known but it highlights the need for psychophysical as well as cell-based methods to understand the genotype-phenotype relationship for taste receptors. Human PROP sensitivity is determined by the combination of each of these 3 polymorphisms within the TAS2R38 gene.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)161-167
Number of pages7
JournalChemical Senses
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Alleles
  • Bitter
  • Genetics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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