Taste receptors were first described as sensory receptors located on the tongue, where they are expressed in small clusters of specialized epithelial cells. However, more studies were published in recent years pointing to an expression of these proteins not only in the oral cavity but throughout the body and thus to a physiological role beyond the tongue. The recent observation that taste receptors and components of the coupled taste transduction cascade are also expressed during the different phases of spermatogenesis as well as in mature spermatozoa from mouse to humans and the overlap between the ligand spectrum of taste receptors with compounds in the male and female reproductive organs makes it reasonable to assume that sperm "taste" these different cues in their natural microenvironments. This assumption is assisted by the recent observations of a reproductive phenotype of different mouse lines carrying a targeted deletion of a taste receptor gene as well as the finding of a significant correlation between human male infertility and some polymorphisms in taste receptors genes. In this review, we depict recent findings on the role of taste receptors in male fertility, especially focusing on their possible involvement in mechanisms underlying spermatogenesis and post testicular sperm maturation. We also highlight the impact of genetic deletions of taste receptors, as well as their polymorphisms on male reproduction.
Keywords: SNP; acrosome reaction; apoptosis; cAMP; calcium; epididymal sperm maturation; knockout mice; reproduction; sperm; spermatogenesis; spontaneous activity of GPCRs; taste receptor.