Bitterness perception in mammals is mostly directed at natural toxins that induce innate avoidance behaviours. Bitter taste is mediated by the G protein-coupled receptor TAS2R, which is located in taste cell membranes. One of the best-studied bitter taste receptors is TAS2R38, which recognizes phenylthiocarbamide (PTC). Here we investigate the sensitivities of TAS2R38 receptors to PTC in four species of leaf-eating monkeys (subfamily Colobinae). Compared with macaque monkeys (subfamily Cercopithecinae), colobines have lower sensitivities to PTC in behavioural and in vitro functional analyses. We identified four non-synonymous mutations in colobine TAS2R38 that are responsible for the decreased sensitivity of the TAS2R38 receptor to PTC observed in colobines compared with macaques. These results suggest that tolerance to bitterness in colobines evolved from an ancestor that was sensitive to bitterness as an adaptation to eating leaves.
Electronic supplementary material is available online at https://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.3664534.
- Received October 23, 2016.
- Accepted January 1, 2017.
- © 2017 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.