Stress hormone receptors localized in sweet taste cells

Parker studies interactions between the endocrine and taste systems on molecular and behavioral levels. Credit: Monell Center

According to new research from the Monell Center, receptors for stress-activated hormones have been localized in oral taste cells responsible for detection of sweet, umami, and bitter. The findings suggest that these hormones, known as glucocorticoids, may act directly on taste receptor cells under conditions of stress to affect how these cells respond to sugars and certain other taste stimuli.

"Sweet taste may be particularly affected by stress," said lead author M. Rockwell Parker, PhD, a chemical ecologist at Monell. "Our results may provide a molecular mechanism to help explain why some people eat more sugary foods when they are experiencing intense stress."

Glucocorticoid (GC) hormones affect the body by activating specialized GC receptors located inside of . Knowing that stress can have major effects on metabolism and food choice, the researchers used a mouse model to ask whether contain these GC receptors.

The findings, published online ahead of print in the journal Neuroscience Letters, revealed that GC receptors are present on the tongue, where they are specifically localized to the cells that contain receptors for sweet, umami and . The highest concentrations of GC receptors were found in Tas1r3 taste cells, which are sensitive to sweet and umami taste.

GC hormones act on cells via a multi-step process. After GCs bind to their receptors within target cells, the activated receptor complex moves, or translocates, to the cell nucleus, where it then influences gene expression and protein assembly.

To explore whether GC receptors in taste tissue are activated by stress, the researchers compared the proportion of taste cells with translocated receptors in stressed and non-stressed mice. Compared to controls, the stressed mice had a 77 percent increase of GC receptors within taste cell nuclei.

Together, the results suggest that perception and intake, which are known to be altered by stress, may be specifically affected via secretion of GCs and subsequent activation of GC receptors in .

"Taste provides one of our initial evaluations of potential foods. If this sense can be directly affected by stress-related hormonal changes, our food interaction will likewise be altered," said Parker.

Parker noted that although stress is known to affect intake of salty foods, GC receptors were not found in cells thought to be responsible for detecting sally and sour taste. One explanation, he said, is that stress may influence salt taste processing in the brain.

Implications of the findings extend beyond the oral taste system. Noting that are found throughout the body, senior author and Monell molecular neurobiologist Robert Margolskee, MD, PhD, said, "Taste in the gut and pancreas might also be influenced by stress, potentially impacting metabolism of sugars and other nutrients and affecting appetite."

Future studies will continue to explore how stress hormones act to affect the system.

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JVK
Jun 04, 2014
"OR2L13 has been found in two previous studies to demonstrate either altered DNA methylation in blood [9] or gene expression in brain [32] in individuals with ASD." That links an olfactory receptor gene from nutrient stress to brain development, which probably parallels the proposed link from nutrient-stress and taste receptors.

http://dx.doi.org....1004402

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