Obesity is a heritable trait caused by complex interactions between genes and environment, including diet. Gene-by-diet interactions are difficult to study in humans because the human diet is hard to control. Here, we used mice to study dietary obesity genes, by four methods. First, we bred 213 F2 mice from strains that are susceptible [C57BL/6ByJ (B6)] or resistant [129P3/J (129)] to dietary obesity. Percent body fat was assessed after mice ate low-energy diet and again after the same mice ate high-energy diet for 8 weeks. Linkage analyses identified QTLs associated with dietary obesity. Three methods were used to filter candidate genes within the QTL regions: (a) association mapping was conducted using >40 strains; (b) differential gene expression and (c) comparison of genomic DNA sequence, using two strains closely related to the progenitor strains from Experiment 1. The QTL effects depended on whether the mice were male or female or which diet they were recently fed. After feeding a low-energy diet, percent body fat was linked to chr 7 (LOD=3.42). After feeding a high-energy diet, percent body fat was linked to chr 9 (Obq5; LOD=3.88), chr 12 (Obq34; LOD=3.88), and chr 17 (LOD=4.56). The Chr 7 and 12 QTLs were sex dependent and all QTL were diet-dependent. The combination of filtering methods highlighted seven candidate genes within the QTL locus boundaries: Crx, Dmpk, Ahr, Mrpl28, Glo1, Tubb5, and Mut. However, these filtering methods have limitations so gene identification will require alternative strategies, such as the construction of congenics with very small donor regions.
Sweet taste is a powerful factor influencing food acceptance. There is considerable variation in sweet taste perception and preferences within and among species. Although learning and homeostatic mechanisms contribute to this variation in sweet taste, much of it is genetically determined. Recent studies have shown that variation in the T1R genes contributes to within- and between-species differences in sweet taste. In addition, our ongoing studies using the mouse model demonstrate that a significant portion of variation in sweetener preferences depends on genes that are not involved in peripheral taste processing. These genes are likely involved in central mechanisms of sweet taste processing, reward and/or motivation. Genetic variation in sweet taste not only influences food choice and intake, but is also associated with proclivity to drink alcohol. Both peripheral and central mechanisms of sweet taste underlie correlation between sweet-liking and alcohol consumption in animal models and humans. All these data illustrate complex genetics of sweet taste preferences and its impact on human nutrition and health. Identification of genes responsible for within- and between-species variation in sweet taste can provide tools to better control food acceptance in humans and other animals.
Taste receptors function as one of the interfaces between internal and external milieus. Taste receptors for sweet and umami (T1R [taste receptor, type 1]), bitter (T2R [taste receptor, type 2]), and salty (ENaC [epithelial sodium channel]) have been discovered in the recent years, but transduction mechanisms of sour taste and ENaC-independent salt taste are still poorly understood. In addition to these five main taste qualities, the taste system detects such noncanonical "tastes" as water, fat, and complex carbohydrates, but their reception mechanisms require further research. Variations in taste receptor genes between and within vertebrate species contribute to individual and species differences in taste-related behaviors. These variations are shaped by evolutionary forces and reflect species adaptations to their chemical environments and feeding ecology. Principles of drug discovery can be applied to taste receptors as targets in order to develop novel taste compounds to satisfy demand in better artificial sweeteners, enhancers of sugar and sodium taste, and blockers of bitterness of food ingredients and oral medications.
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