Bitter taste receptors: Extraoral roles in pathophysiology

Int J Biochem Cell Biol. 2016 Aug;77(Pt B):197-204. doi: 10.1016/j.biocel.2016.03.011. Epub 2016 Mar 23.


Over the past decade tremendous progress has been made in understanding the functional role of bitter taste receptors (T2Rs) and bitter taste perception. This review will cover the recent advances made in identifying the role of T2Rs in pathophysiological states. T2Rs are widely expressed in various parts of human anatomy and have been shown to be involved in physiology of respiratory system, gastrointestinal tract and endocrine system. Empirical evidence has shown T2Rs to be an integral component of antimicrobial immune responses in upper respiratory tract infections. The studies on human airway smooth muscle cells have shown that a potent bitter tastant induced bronchodilatory effects mediated by bitter taste receptors. Clinical data suggests a role for T2R38 polymorphism in predisposition of individuals to chronic rhinosinusitis. The role of genetic variation in T2Rs and its impact on disease susceptibility have been investigated in various other disease risk factors such as alcohol dependence, head and neck cancers. Preliminary reports have demonstrated differential expression of functional T2Rs in breast cancer cell lines. Studies on the role of T2Rs in pathophysiology of diseases including chronic rhinosinusitis, asthma, cystic fibrosis, and cancer have been promising. However, research in this field is in its nascent stages, and more confirmatory studies on animal models and in clinical settings are required.

Keywords: Airway diseases; Asthma; Bitter taste receptors (T2Rs); Bronchodilation; Cystic fibrosis; G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR); T2R polymorphisms.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease*
  • Humans
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / chemistry
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / metabolism*


  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled