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Bitter Taste Sensitivity in Humans and Chimpanzees

  1. Maik Behrens,
  2. Wolfgang Meyerhof

Published Online: 13 JUN 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0020778.pub2



How to Cite

Behrens, M. and Meyerhof, W. 2013. Bitter Taste Sensitivity in Humans and Chimpanzees. eLS. .

Author Information

  1. German Institute of Human Nutrition Potsdam-Rehbruecke, Nuthetal, Germany

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 13 JUN 2013


Bitter taste receptors (TAS2Rs) serve an important function during evolution. They are designed to detect toxic plant metabolites before ingestion. With respect to bitter taste receptors the genetic repertoire of animal species is highly diverse reflecting the species differences in their metabolic requirements, the variety of habitats and evolutionary history. Over the recent years, an incredible amount of data on human bitter taste receptor pharmacology, biochemistry and structural features has accumulated. It became apparent that TAS2R gene expression is not restricted to the oral cavity, but includes several nongustatory tissues, thus expanding the presumed roles of TAS2Rs. By comparing the bitter taste receptor genes of humans with our closest relative, the chimpanzee, we learn about some of the evolutionary forces that shaped the development of modern human beings. This article discusses the current knowledge on bitter taste physiology, TAS2R function and evolutionary conservation of human and chimpanzee TAS2R genes.

Key Concepts:

  • Taste physiology and hedonics of bitter taste appear similar in humans and chimpanzees.

  • Human bitter taste receptors can be grouped into generalists and specialists depending on their tuning breadth.

  • Similar to the human situation, bitter tasting abilities of the chimpanzee are in some instances individual.

  • Dynamic evolution of human and chimpanzee TAS2R genes is earmarked by regional diversification.

  • The rate of TAS2R gene pseudogenisation indicates relaxed evolutionary constraints in the primate lineage.


  • bitter taste receptor genes;
  • TAS2R;
  • taste;
  • dynamic evolution;
  • food selection