The good taste of peptides


Piero A. Temussi, Department of Chemistry, University of Naples “Federico II”, Via Cinthia, 80126 Naples, Italy. E-mail


The taste of peptides is seldom one of the most relevant issues when one considers the many important biological functions of this class of molecules. However, peptides generally do have a taste, covering essentially the entire range of established taste modalities: sweet, bitter, umami, sour and salty. The last two modalities cannot be attributed to peptides as such because they are due to the presence of charged terminals and/or charged side chains, thus reflecting only the zwitterionic nature of these compounds and/or the nature of some side chains but not the electronic and/or conformational features of a specific peptide. The other three tastes, that is, sweet, umami and bitter, are represented by different families of peptides. This review describes the main peptides with a sweet, umami or bitter taste and their relationship with food acceptance or rejection. Particular emphasis will be given to the sweet taste modality, owing to the practical and scientific relevance of aspartame, the well-known sweetener, and to the theoretical importance of sweet proteins, the most potent peptide sweet molecules. Copyright © 2011 European Peptide Society and John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.