From small sweeteners to sweet proteins: anatomy of the binding sites of the human T1R2_T1R3 receptor

J Med Chem. 2005 Aug 25;48(17):5520-9. doi: 10.1021/jm0503345.


The sweet taste receptor, a heterodimeric G protein coupled receptor (GPCR) protein, formed by the T1R2 and T1R3 subunits, recognizes several sweet compounds including carbohydrates, amino acids, peptides, proteins, and synthetic sweeteners. Its similarity with the metabotropic glutamate mGluR1 receptor allowed us to build homology models. All possible dimers formed by combinations of the human T1R2 and T1R3 subunits, modeled on the A (closed) or B (open) chains of the extracellular ligand binding domain of the mGluR1 template, yield four ligand binding sites for low-molecular-weight sweeteners. These sites were probed by docking a set of molecules representative of all classes of sweet compounds and calculating the free energy of ligand binding. These sites are not easily accessible to sweet proteins, but docking experiments in silico showed that sweet proteins can bind to a secondary site without entering the deep cleft. Our models account for many experimental observations on the tastes of sweeteners, including sweetness synergy, and can help to design new sweeteners.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Binding Sites
  • Carbohydrates / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Ligands
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Weight
  • Peptides / chemistry*
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Protein Subunits / chemistry
  • Proteins / chemistry*
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / chemistry*
  • Receptors, Metabotropic Glutamate / chemistry
  • Sweetening Agents / chemistry*
  • Taste
  • Thermodynamics


  • Carbohydrates
  • Ligands
  • Peptides
  • Protein Subunits
  • Proteins
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • Receptors, Metabotropic Glutamate
  • Sweetening Agents
  • metabotropic glutamate receptor type 1
  • taste receptors, type 1