Denatonium benzoate bitter taste perception in chronic rhinosinusitis subgroups

Int Forum Allergy Rhinol. 2021 Jun;11(6):967-975. doi: 10.1002/alr.22687. Epub 2020 Sep 3.


Background: Chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS) with nasal polyps (CRSwNP) and CRS without nasal polyps (CRSsNP), and aspirin-exacerbated respiratory disease (AERD) have varying levels of inflammation and disease severity. Solitary chemosensory cells (SCCs) are enriched in nasal polyps, are the primary source of interleukin 25 (IL-25) in upper airways, leading to type 2 inflammation, and are activated by bitter-tasting denatonium benzoate (DB). Thus, we sought to evaluate DB taste perception at a range of concentrations in order to identify 1 that most differentiates CRS subgroups from controls.

Methods: CRSsNP (n = 25), CRSwNP (n = 26), and AERD (n = 27) patients as well as controls (n = 25) tasted 6 DB concentrations in a fixed, random order, rating on a category scale of 0 (no intensity) to 12 (extremely intense). Sinonasal epithelial cultures were treated with and without denatonium and analyzed for IL-25 via flow cytometry.

Results: CRSsNP patients rated DB as significantly less intense than did controls at all concentrations: 5.62 × 10-9 M, 1.00 × 10-8 M, 1.78 × 10-8 M, 3.16 × 10-8 M, 5.62 × 10-8 M, and 1.00 × 10-7 M (all p < 0.0083). CRSwNP patients did not show significant differences from controls. AERD patients rated DB as significantly more intense than did controls at concentrations of 1.00 × 10-8 M and 3.16 × 10-8 M (p < 0.0083). In vitro data demonstrated significant increase in IL-25-positive cells after denatonium stimulation (n = 5), compared to control (n = 5) (p = 0.012).

Conclusion: Our findings link in vitro DB stimulation of sinonasal tissue with increased IL-25 and show differential DB taste perception in CRS subgroups relative to the control group, with CRSsNP being hyposensitive and AERD being hypersensitive. We propose a concentration of 3.16 × 10-8 M for future study of clinical utility.

Keywords: AERD; bitter taste receptors; bitterness; mucosal immunity; sensory perception; solitary chemosensory cells; type 2 inflammation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Disease
  • Humans
  • Nasal Polyps*
  • Quaternary Ammonium Compounds
  • Rhinitis*
  • Sinusitis*
  • Taste Perception


  • Quaternary Ammonium Compounds
  • denatonium