Monosodium glutamate and sweet taste: generalization of conditioned taste aversion between glutamate and sweet stimuli in rats

Chem Senses. 2003 Sep;28(7):631-41. doi: 10.1093/chemse/bjg056.


Even though monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a prototypical umami substance, previous studies reported that a conditioned taste aversion (CTA) to MSG, mixed with amiloride to block the taste of sodium, generalizes to sucrose. These findings suggest that the taste of glutamate mimics the taste of sucrose and raise the question of whether glutamate has a broadly tuned sweet taste component. To test this hypothesis, CTA experiments were conducted to test for generalization between MSG and several sweet stimuli: sucrose, glucose, maltose, saccharin and SC-45647. Strong bidirectional generalization was seen between MSG mixed with amiloride and sucrose, glucose, saccharin and SC-45647. Weak generalization was seen between MSG and maltose, and sucrose and maltose. None of the CTAs generalized to NMDA. These findings support the hypothesis that the taste of MSG has broadly tuned, sweet-like characteristics, possibly due to the convergence of afferent signals for MSG, natural sugars and artificial sweeteners.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amiloride / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Avoidance Learning / physiology*
  • Flavoring Agents / pharmacology*
  • Glucose / pharmacology
  • Glutamic Acid / pharmacology*
  • Guanidines / pharmacology
  • Male
  • Maltose / pharmacology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Saccharin / pharmacology
  • Sodium Glutamate / pharmacology*
  • Sucrose / pharmacology
  • Sweetening Agents / pharmacology*
  • Taste / drug effects*
  • Taste / physiology


  • Flavoring Agents
  • Guanidines
  • SC 45647
  • Sweetening Agents
  • Glutamic Acid
  • Sucrose
  • Maltose
  • Amiloride
  • Saccharin
  • Glucose
  • Sodium Glutamate