Cracking the Genetic Code: Unraveling the Genotype of Non-Tasters

1. Understanding taste perception

Taste is a fascinating sensory experience that allows us to recognize and appreciate the flavors of foods and beverages. However, not everyone experiences taste in the same way. Some individuals, known as non-tasters, have a diminished ability to detect certain tastes, particularly those associated with bitterness. This intriguing variation in taste perception is influenced by a person’s genotype, which refers to the specific combination of genes they carry.

At the heart of taste perception are taste receptors, which are proteins located on the taste buds of the tongue. These receptors are responsible for detecting different tastes such as sweet, sour, salty, umami, and bitter. Each taste receptor is encoded by a specific gene, and variations in these genes can lead to differences in taste perception between individuals.

2. The TAS2R gene family

One of the key gene families involved in taste perception, particularly bitter taste perception, is the TAS2R gene family. TAS2R genes encode bitter taste receptors, and variations in these genes can affect an individual’s ability to detect and perceive bitterness.
Research has identified several genetic variations, or single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), within the TAS2R gene family that are associated with non-taster status. One such SNP is rs1726866, located in the TAS2R38 gene. This particular SNP causes an amino acid change in the taste receptor protein, resulting in altered receptor function and reduced sensitivity to bitter compounds.

3. The PAV and AVI alleles

The rs1726866 SNP in the TAS2R38 gene results in two common alleles: the PAV allele and the AVI allele. Individuals with two copies of the PAV allele (PAV/PAV) are classified as “tasters” and have an increased sensitivity to bitter compounds. On the other hand, individuals with one or two copies of the AVI allele (AVI/AVI or AVI/PAV) are considered “non-tasters” and have a reduced ability to perceive bitterness.

It is important to note that taste perception is a complex trait influenced by multiple genetic and environmental factors. While the TAS2R38 gene is an important contributor to bitterness perception, other genes and pathways also play a role in shaping an individual’s taste preferences and sensitivity.

4. Phenotypic variability and genetic interactions

Although the PAV and AVI alleles of the TAS2R38 gene are strongly associated with taster and non-taster phenotypes, there is considerable variability in taste perception even among individuals with the same genotype. This suggests that other genetic and environmental factors interact with TAS2R38 to modulate taste sensitivity.

For example, recent studies have highlighted the influence of other taste-related genes, such as TAS2R16 and GNAT3, on bitterness perception. Interactions between these genes and TAS2R38 may contribute to the observed variability in taste perception. In addition, environmental factors, such as exposure to bitter compounds during early development, may also shape taste sensitivity and modify the effects of genetic variation.

5. Implications for health and nutrition

The genetic basis of taste perception, including the genotype of non-tasters, has significant implications for health and nutrition. Bitterness perception plays a role in food preferences and dietary choices, as individuals with heightened sensitivity to bitterness may be more averse to certain foods and beverages.
Understanding an individual’s taste genotype, particularly their status as a non-taster, can help tailor dietary recommendations and interventions. For example, non-tasters may need additional encouragement to consume bitter-tasting but nutritionally important foods, such as cruciferous vegetables, which are rich in beneficial compounds.

In addition, the study of the genetics of taste perception has broader implications for the development of personalized nutritional approaches that take into account an individual’s unique genetic makeup. By unraveling the complexities of taste perception, we can gain insight into how our genes shape our dietary preferences and potentially develop strategies to improve overall nutrition and health.
In conclusion, taste perception is a multifaceted trait influenced by genetic and environmental factors. The genotype of a non-taster, particularly in relation to the TAS2R38 gene, provides valuable insight into the diminished ability to perceive bitterness. However, taste perception is a complex interplay of different genes and pathways, and more research is needed to fully understand the intricacies of this fascinating sensory experience. The study of taste genetics holds great promise for improving our understanding of individual differences in taste perception and informing personalized approaches to nutrition and health.


What is the genotype of a non taster?

The genotype of a non taster is typically represented as “TT” or “Tt”.

What does “non taster” refer to in genetics?

In genetics, “non taster” refers to an individual who is unable to taste certain specific substances due to a genetic variation.

What is the role of the TAS2R38 gene in determining the ability to taste?

The TAS2R38 gene is responsible for encoding a taste receptor protein that plays a crucial role in the perception of bitter taste. Genetic variations in this gene can affect an individual’s ability to taste certain bitter compounds, such as phenylthiocarbamide (PTC) and 6-n-propylthiouracil (PROP).

Can non tasters still perceive other tastes?

Yes, non tasters can still perceive other tastes such as sweet, salty, sour, and umami. Their inability to taste certain bitter compounds is specific to their genetic variation in the TAS2R38 gene.

Is the ability to taste bitter compounds solely determined by genetics?

No, the ability to taste bitter compounds is influenced by both genetics and environmental factors. While genetic variations in the TAS2R38 gene play a significant role, other factors such as age, gender, and cultural influences can also affect an individual’s perception of bitter taste.