Novel GPR120 agonist TUG891 modulates fat taste perception and preference and activates tongue-brain-gut axis in mice

J Lipid Res. 2020 Feb;61(2):133-142. doi: 10.1194/jlr.RA119000142. Epub 2019 Dec 5.


GPR120 is implicated as a lipid receptor in the oro-sensory detection of dietary fatty acids. However, the effects of GPR120 activation on dietary fat intake or obesity are not clearly understood. We investigated to determine whether the binding of TUG891, a novel GPR120 agonist, to lingual GPR120 modulates fat preference in mice. We explored the effects of TUG891 on obesity-related hormones and conducted behavioral choice tests on mice to better understand the physiologic relevance of the action of TUG891. In cultured mouse and human taste bud cells (TBCs), TUG891 induced a rapid increase in Ca2+ by acting on GPR120. A long-chain dietary fatty acid, linoleic acid (LA), also recruited Ca2+ via GPR120 in human and mouse TBCs. Both TUG891 and LA induced ERK1/2 phosphorylation and enhanced in vitro release of glucagon-like peptide-1 from cultured human and mouse TBCs. In situ application of TUG891 onto the tongue of anesthetized mice triggered the secretion of pancreatobiliary juice, probably via the tongue-brain-gut axis. Furthermore, lingual application of TUG891 altered circulating concentrations of cholecystokinin and adipokines, associated with decreased circulating LDL, in conscious mice. In behavioral tests, mice exhibited a spontaneous preference for solutions containing either TUG891 or LA instead of a control. However, addition of TUG891 to a solution containing LA significantly curtailed fatty acid preference. Our study demonstrates that TUG891 binds to lingual GPR120 receptors, activates the tongue-brain-gut axis, and modulates fat preference. These findings may support the development of new fat taste analogs that can change the approach to obesity prevention and treatment.

Keywords: extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2; glucagon-like peptide-1; linoleic acid; obesity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biphenyl Compounds / pharmacology*
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Phenylpropionates / pharmacology*
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / agonists*
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / metabolism
  • Taste Buds / drug effects
  • Taste Buds / metabolism
  • Taste Perception / drug effects*
  • Tongue / drug effects*
  • Tongue / metabolism


  • 3-(4-((4-fluoro-4'-methyl-(1,1'-biphenyl)-2-yl)methoxy)phenyl)propanoic acid
  • Biphenyl Compounds
  • FFAR4 protein, human
  • FFAR4 protein, mouse
  • Phenylpropionates
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled