Sweet tooth is in the genes

From San Francisco, at the spring national meeting of the American Chemical Society

Taste researchers have narrowed the search for the sweet tooth gene, at least in mice, to a 100-gene region, says Gary K. Beauchamp of the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia.

Twenty different sweeteners appear to activate the gene, says Beauchamp. That suggests it might encode a protein signaling sweetness rather than a receptor on the tongue, which would typically be more specific. People may have a similar gene, although studies of twins have failed to show a genetic link to sweet preference, he says.

Tina Hesman Saey is the senior staff writer and reports on molecular biology. She has a Ph.D. in molecular genetics from Washington University in St. Louis and a master’s degree in science journalism from Boston University.

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