Wine tasting results in interactions of tannin-ethanol solutions with proteins and lipids of the oral cavity. Among the various feelings perceived during tasting, astringency and bitterness most probably result in binding events with saliva proteins, lipids and receptors. In this work, we monitored the conjugated effect of the grape polyphenol catechin and ethanol on lipid membranes mimicking the different degrees of keratinization of oral cavity surfaces by varying the amount of cholesterol present in membranes. Both catechin and ethanol fluidify the membranes as evidenced by solid-state 2H NMR of perdeuterated lipids. The effect is however depending on the cholesterol proportion and may be very important and cumulative in the absence of cholesterol or presence of 18 mol % cholesterol. For 40 mol % cholesterol, mimicking highly keratinized membranes, both ethanol and catechin can no longer affect membrane dynamics. These observations can be accounted for by phase diagrams of lipid-cholesterol mixtures and the role played by membrane defects for insertion of tannins and ethanol when several phases coexist. These findings suggest that the behavior of oral membranes in contact with wine should be different depending of their cholesterol content. Astringency and bitterness could be then affected; the former because of a potential competition between the tannin-lipid and the tannin-saliva protein interaction, and the latter because of a possible fluidity modification of membranes containing taste receptors. The lipids that have been up to now weakly considered in oenology may be become a new actor in the issue of wine tasting.
Keywords: Astringency; Bitterness; Lipid phase heterogeneity; Membrane fluidity; Order parameter; Solid-state NMR.
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