12 January - 20 June 2016

Study insights could lead to development of a new class of non-caloric sweeteners

Study findings published in PNAS have provided insights of the complex mechanisms of sweet taste detection, which the authors suggest could help with the development of a sucrose substitute that tastes good but has no calories.

Study findings published in PNAS have provided insights of the complex mechanisms of sweet taste detection, which the authors suggest could help with the development of a sucrose substitute that tastes good but has no calories.

Margolskee et al. investigated the taste receptors T1R3+T1R2 that respond to sugars and sweeteners on the tongue.  Mice that have these taste receptors inactivated have been found to still be able to sense glucose, sucrose and other caloric sugars.  Previous research by Margolskee et al. investigated sugar sensors in the intestine and pancreas which led to the identification of a second class of sweet taste sensors on the tongue.  These secondary sensors were found to be sensitive to simple sugars such as glucose, however not to sucrose and other complex sugars.

In this current study the team examined whether there were enzymes present on the tongue, similar to gut enzymes, which could break down sucrose and other complex sugars into simple sugars that can be absorbed into the blood stream.  Using a mouse model, Margolskee et al. examined the expression of the enzymes Amy1 (salivary amylase), Amy2 (pancreatic amylase) and Ganc in taste and non-taste tissues.

Margolskee et al. found several carbohydrate-hydrolysing enzymes are present in taste cells, however they needed to confirm whether these enzymes contributed to taste sensing of sucrose, maltose, or other disaccharides and whether they were found within or in proximity to sweet taste receptors.   Using several analytics methods, including double staining the taste cells using an antibody against either the maltase-glucoamylase (MGAM) and sucrose-isomaltase (SIS) enzymes and second antibodies or transgenes that mark specific cells types, the scientists found both enzymes were often present and expressed in type II taste cells and also in some type III taste cells.  After further investigation they found that the tongue enzymes are in the ideal location to cleave complex sugars from ingested foods into glucose and fructose, which can then activate the secondary sugar sensors. 

Margolskee et al. report that as T1R2+T1R3 receptors sense a range of molecules including non-caloric sweeteners, they suggest that the second sugar sensor pathway may act as a calorie detector for metabolisable sugars. The authors note, for example, that sucrose activates the “classic main sweet receptors” but after being broken down by sucrase in the taste cells, the glucose which is released, activates the second sweet pathway. 

The authors state that this could be the reason why humans respond to sweet substances with caloric value as opposed to non-caloric sweeteners which fail to activate the secondary pathway, mediating the unique sweet taste of sugar.   This may have implications for the development of a “new class of non-caloric sweeteners”.  Non-caloric sweeteners, may not replicate the full taste of sugars as they only activate the T1R2+T1R3 receptors and do not target the secondary sugar sensors, which “mediate the sweet taste of sugar”. 

RSSL has considerable expertise in the selection of sweeteners (both carbohydrate and high potency) to optimise sweetness profiles to cost requirements in a broad range of product categories.  Evaluation of new sweeteners for their market potential is also available.  For more information please contact Customer Services on +44 (0) 118 918 4076 or email enquiries@rssl.com

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