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Your Gut Has a Sweet Tooth Too

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Background: Sugars in our food are an important source of energy for the body. But too much sugar in our diet can result in serious health problems such as obesity and diabetes. Researchers have known that the small intestine absorbs sugars from our food with the help of the same proteins that detect sweetness on the tongue; however, until recently, they weren’t sure how cells in the intestine recognized these sugars to kick-start the absorption process.

Advance: NIDCD-funded scientists have found that both the sugar receptor T1R3 and the specialized signaling molecule gustducin are located in the taste buds of the tongue and in the human gut. T1R3 and gustducin enable the intestine to sense and absorb sugar and turn up the production of blood sugar-regulation hormones, including the hormone that regulates insulin release. Also, the researchers showed that the gut’s response is the same for both sugar and the artificial sweetener sucralose, which suggests that current artificial sweeteners may not help a person lose weight.

Implication: The discovery of a sweet taste receptor and a protein that sets in motion the sweet absorption process in the lining of the gut may help scientists develop drugs that target the gut taste receptors to treat weight problems and diabetes, both of which are important public health issues.

Publication Citations and Link to Publications: Robert F. Margolskee, Jane Dyer, Zaza Kokrashvili, Kieron S. H. Salmon, Erwin Ilegems, Kristian Daly, Emeline L. Maillet, Yuzo Ninomiya, Bedrich Mosinger, and Soraya P. Shirazi-Beechey. T1R3 and gustducin in gut sense sugars to regulate expression of Na+-glucose cotransporter 1 PNAS 2007 104: 15075-15080; published online before print as 10.1073/pnas.0706678104 (PDF)

Hyeung-Jin Jang, Zaza Kokrashvili, Michael J. Theodorakis, Olga D. Carlson, Byung-Joon Kim, Jie Zhou, Hyeon Ho Kim, Xiangru Xu, Sic L. Chan, Magdalena Juhaszova, Michel Bernier, Bedrich Mosinger, Robert F. Margolskee, and Josephine M. Egan. Gut-expressed gustducin and taste receptors regulate secretion of glucagon-like peptide-1 PNAS 2007 104: 15069-15074; published online before print as 10.1073/pnas.0706890104 (PDF)

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