Bitter taste receptors in the reproductive system: Function and therapeutic implications

J Cell Physiol. 2024 Feb;239(2):e31179. doi: 10.1002/jcp.31179. Epub 2024 Jan 14.


Type 2 taste receptors (TAS2Rs), traditionally known for their role in bitter taste perception, are present in diverse reproductive tissues of both sexes. This review explores our current understanding of TAS2R functions with a particular focus on reproductive health. In males, TAS2Rs are believed to play potential roles in processes such as sperm chemotaxis and male fertility. Genetic insights from mouse models and human polymorphism studies provide some evidence for their contribution to male infertility. In female reproduction, it is speculated that TAS2Rs influence the ovarian milieu, shaping the functions of granulosa and cumulus cells and their interactions with oocytes. In the uterus, TAS2Rs contribute to uterine relaxation and hold potential as therapeutic targets for preventing preterm birth. In the placenta, they are proposed to function as vigilant sentinels, responding to infection and potentially modulating mechanisms of fetal protection. In the cervix and vagina, their analogous functions to those in other extraoral tissues suggest a potential role in infection defense. In addition, TAS2Rs exhibit altered expression patterns that profoundly affect cancer cell proliferation and apoptosis in reproductive cancers. Notably, TAS2R agonists show promise in inducing apoptosis and overcoming chemoresistance in these malignancies. Despite these advances, challenges remain, including a lack of genetic and functional studies. The application of techniques such as single-cell RNA sequencing and clustered regularly interspaced palindromic repeats (CRISPR)/CRISPR-associated endonuclease 9 gene editing could provide deeper insights into TAS2Rs in reproduction, paving the way for novel therapeutic strategies for reproductive disorders.

Keywords: bitter taste receptors; immune sentinel; infertility; preterm labor; reproductive cancers; spermatogenesis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Genitalia
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / metabolism
  • Semen
  • Taste / genetics
  • Taste Buds* / metabolism


  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled