Behavioral comparisons of the tastes of L-alanine and monosodium glutamate in rats

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Recent research has implicated T1R1/T1R3 as the primary taste receptor in mammals for detecting L-amino acids, including L-monosodium glutamate (MSG) and L-alanine. Previous behavioral studies with rodents found only minimal evidence that these two substances share perceptual qualities, but those studies did not control for the taste of sodium associated with MSG. This study used several behavioral methods to compare the perceptual qualities of MSG and L-alanine in rats, using amiloride (a sodium channel blocker) to reduce the sodium component of MSG taste. Detection thresholds of L-alanine in rats ranged between 0.4 and 2.5 mM, with or without amiloride added, which are similar to threshold estimates for MSG. Conditioned taste aversion (CTA) found that rats showed strong cross-generalization of CTA between MSG and L-alanine when mixed with amiloride, indicating the two substances have similar perceptual qualities. Discrimination methods showed that rats easily discriminated between L-alanine and MSG unless the cue function of sodium was reduced. The discrimination became significantly more difficult at concentrations <100 mM when amiloride was added to all stimuli and became even more difficult when NaCl was also added to L-alanine solutions to match the sodium concentrations of MSG. These results indicate that, perceptually, MSG and L-alanine have quite similar taste qualities and support the hypothesis that these two L-amino acids activate a common taste receptor. The differences in perceptual qualities also suggest separate afferent processing of one or both substances may also be involved. © Oxford University Press 2004; all rights reserved.

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