The sense of taste is a chemosensory system responsible for basic food appraisal. Humans distinguish between five primary tastes: bitter, sweet, sour, salty and umami. The molecular events in the perception of bitter taste are believed to start with the binding of specific water-soluble molecules to G-protein-coupled receptors encoded by the TAS2R/T2R family of taste receptor genes. TAS2R receptors are expressed at the surface of taste receptor cells and are coupled to G proteins and second messenger pathways. We have identified, cloned and characterized 11 new bitter taste receptor genes and four new pseudogenes that belong to the human TAS2R family. Their encoded proteins have between 298 and 333 amino acids and share between 23 and 86% identity with other human TAS2R proteins. Screening of a mono-chromosomal somatic cell hybrid panel to assign the identified bitter taste receptor genes to human chromosomes demonstrated that they are located in chromosomes 7 and 12. Including the 15 sequences identified, the human TAS2R family is composed of 28 full-length genes and 16 pseudogenes. Phylogenetic analyses suggest a classification of the TAS2R genes in five groups that may reflect a specialization in the detection of specific types of bitter chemicals.
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