Monosodium glutamate and sweet taste: Discrimination between the tastes of sweet stimuli and glutamate in rats

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Generalization of a conditioned taste aversion (CTA) is based on similarities in taste qualities shared by the aversive substance and another taste substance. CTA experiments with rats have found that an aversion to a variety of sweet stimuli will cross-generalize with monosodium glutamate (MSG) when amiloride, a sodium channel blocker, is added to all solutions to reduce the taste of sodium. These findings suggest that the glutamate anion elicits a sweet taste sensation in rats. CTA experiments, however, generally do not indicate whether two substances have different taste qualities. In this study, discrimination methods in which rats focused on perceptual differences were used to determine if they could distinguish between the tastes of MSG and four sweet substances. As expected, rats readily discriminated between two natural sugars (sucrose, glucose) and two artificial sweeteners (saccharin, SC45647). Rats also easily discriminated between MSG and glucose, saccharin and, to a lesser extent, SC45647 when the taste of the sodium ion of MSG was reduced by the addition of amiloride to all solutions, or the addition of amiloride to all solutions and NaCl to each sweet stimulus to match the concentration of Na + in the MSG solutions. In contrast, reducing the cue function of the Na+ ion significantly decreased their ability to discriminate between sucrose and MSG. These results suggest that the sweet qualities of glutamate taste is not as dominate a component of glutamate taste as CTA experiments suggest and these qualities are most closely related to the taste qualities of sucrose. The findings of this study, in conjunction with other research, suggest that sweet and umami afferent signaling may converge through a taste receptor with a high affinity for glutamate and sucrose or a downstream transduction mechanism. These data also suggest that rats do not necessarily perceive the tastes of these sweet stimuli as similar and that these sweet stimuli are detected by multiple sweet receptors. © Oxford University Press 2004; all rights reserved.

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