Evolution of bitter taste receptors in humans and apes

Mol Biol Evol. 2005 Mar;22(3):432-6. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msi027. Epub 2004 Oct 20.


Bitter taste perception is crucial for the survival of organisms because it enables them to avoid the ingestion of potentially harmful substances. Bitter taste receptors are encoded by a gene family that in humans has been shown to contain 25 putatively functional genes and 8 pseudogenes and in mouse 33 putatively functional genes and 3 pseudogenes. Lineage-specific expansions of bitter taste receptors have taken place in both mouse and human, but very little is known about the evolution of these receptors in primates. We report the analysis of the almost complete repertoires of bitter taste receptor genes in human, great apes, and two Old World monkeys. As a group, these genes seem to be under little selective constraint compared with olfactory receptors and other genes in the studied species. However, in contrast to the olfactory receptor gene repertoire, where humans have a higher proportion of pseudogenes than apes, there is no evidence that the rate of loss of bitter taste receptor genes varies among humans and apes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Haplorhini / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Phylogeny*
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / genetics*


  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • taste receptors, type 2