Mechanisms for the Sour Taste

Handb Exp Pharmacol. 2022;275:229-245. doi: 10.1007/164_2021_476.


Sour, the taste of acids, provides important sensory information to prevent the ingestion of unripe, spoiled, or fermented foods. In mammals, acids elicit disgust and pain by simultaneously activating taste and somatosensory neurons innervating the oral cavity. Early researchers detected electrical activity in taste nerves upon presenting acids to the tongue, establishing this as the bona fide sour taste. Recent studies have made significant contributions to our understanding of the mechanisms underlying acid sensing in the taste receptor cells at the periphery and the neural circuitry that convey this information to the brain. In this chapter, we discuss the characterization of sour taste receptor cells, the twists and turns eventually leading to the identification of Otopetrin1 (OTOP1) as the sour taste receptor, the pathway of sour taste signaling from the tongue to the brainstem, and other roles sour taste receptor cells play in the taste bud.

Keywords: Acid; Circuit; Otopetrin; Prodynorphin; Proenkephalin; Somatosensory; Sour; Taste; Taste receptor.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology
  • Humans
  • Mammals
  • Neurons
  • Taste Buds* / metabolism
  • Taste* / physiology
  • Tongue / metabolism