Variation in taste perception of different chemical substances is a well-known phenomenon in both humans and animals. Recent advances in the understanding of sweet taste signaling have identified a number of proteins involved in this signal transduction. We evaluated the hypothesis that sequence variations occurring in genes encoding taste signaling molecules can influence sweet taste perception in humans. Our population consisted of unrelated individuals (n = 160) of Caucasian, African-American, and Asian descent. Threshold and suprathreshold sensitivities of participants for sucrose were estimated using a sorting test and signal detection analysis that produced cumulative R-index area under the curve (AUC) scores. Genetic association analysis revealed significant correlation of sucrose AUC scores with genetic variation occurring in the GNAT3 gene (single point P = 10(-3) to 10(-4)), which encodes the taste-specific G(alpha) protein subunit gustducin. Subsequent sequencing identified additional GNAT3 variations having significant association with sucrose AUC scores. Collectively, GNAT3 polymorphisms explain 13% of the variation in sucrose perception. Our findings underscore the importance of common genetic variants influencing human taste perception.