Intestinal bitter taste receptor activation alters hormone secretion and imparts metabolic benefits

Mol Metab. 2018 Oct;16:76-87. doi: 10.1016/j.molmet.2018.07.013. Epub 2018 Aug 4.


Objectives: Extracts of the hops plant have been shown to reduce weight and insulin resistance in rodents and humans, but elucidation of the mechanisms responsible for these benefits has been hindered by the use of heterogeneous hops-derived mixtures. Because hop extracts are used as flavoring agents for their bitter properties, we hypothesized that bitter taste receptors (Tas2rs) could be mediating their beneficial effects in metabolic disease. Studies have shown that exposure of cultured enteroendocrine cells to bitter tastants can stimulate release of hormones, including glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1). These findings have led to the suggestion that activation of Tas2rs may be of benefit in diabetes, but this tenet has not been tested. Here, we have assessed the ability of a pure derivative of a hops isohumulone with anti-diabetic properties, KDT501, to signal through Tas2rs. We have further used this compound as a tool to systematically assess the impact of bitter taste receptor activation in obesity-diabetes.

Methods: KDT501 was tested in a panel of bitter taste receptor signaling assays. Diet-induced obese mice (DIO) were dosed orally with KDT501 and acute effects on glucose homeostasis determined. A wide range of metabolic parameters were evaluated in DIO mice chronically treated with KDT501 to establish the full impact of activating gut bitter taste signaling.

Results: We show that KDT501 signals through Tas2r108, one of 35 mouse Tas2rs. In DIO mice, acute treatment stimulated GLP-1 secretion and enhanced glucose tolerance. Chronic treatment caused weight and fat mass loss, increased energy expenditure, enhanced glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity, normalized plasma lipids, and induced broad suppression of inflammatory markers. Chronic KDT501 treatment altered enteroendocrine hormone levels and bile acid homeostasis and stimulated sustained GLP-1 release. Combined treatment with a dipeptidyl peptidase IV inhibitor amplified the incretin-based benefits of this pure isohumulone.

Conclusions: Activation of Tas2r108 in the gut results in a remodeling of enteroendocrine hormone release and bile acid metabolism that ameliorates multiple features of metabolic syndrome. Targeting extraoral bitter taste receptors may be useful in metabolic disease.

Keywords: Bitter taste receptor; Diabetes; Enteroendocrine hormones; GLP-1; Intestinal signaling; Isohumulone.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Weight / drug effects
  • Cyclopentanes / metabolism*
  • Cyclopentanes / pharmacology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Enteroendocrine Cells / metabolism
  • Glucagon-Like Peptide 1 / drug effects
  • Glucagon-Like Peptide 1 / metabolism
  • Humulus / metabolism
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / pharmacology
  • Insulin Resistance / physiology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism
  • Intestines / physiology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Obese
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / drug effects
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / metabolism*
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects


  • Cyclopentanes
  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • Tas2R108 protein, mouse
  • Glucagon-Like Peptide 1
  • isohumulone