Search tips
Search criteria

Results 1-25 (73)

Clipboard (0)

Select a Filter Below

more »
Year of Publication
more »
1.  Do polymorphisms in chemosensory genes matter for human ingestive behavior? 
Food quality and preference  2013;30(2):202-216.
In the last decade, basic research in chemoreceptor genetics and neurobiology have revolutionized our understanding of individual differences in chemosensation. From an evolutionary perspective, chemosensory variations appear to have arisen in response to different living environments, generally in the avoidance of toxins and to better detect vital food sources. Today, it is often assumed that these differences may drive variable food preferences and choices, with downstream effects on health and wellness. A growing body of evidence indicates chemosensory variation is far more complex than previously believed. However, just because a genetic polymorphism results in altered receptor function in cultured cells or even behavioral phenotypes in the laboratory, this variation may not be sufficient to influence food choice in free living humans. Still, there is ample evidence to indicate allelic variation in TAS2R38 predicts variation in bitterness of synthetic pharmaceuticals (e.g., propylthiouracil) and natural plant compounds (e.g., goitrin), and this variation associates with differential intake of alcohol and vegetables. Further, this is only one of 25 unique bitter taste genes (TAS2Rs) in humans, and emerging evidence suggests other TAS2Rs may also contain polymorphisms that a functional with respect to ingestive behavior. For example, TAS2R16 polymorphisms are linked to the bitterness of naturally occurring plant compounds and alcoholic beverage intake, a TAS2R19 polymorphism predicts differences in quinine bitterness and grapefruit bitterness and liking, and TAS2R31 polymorphisms associate with differential bitterness of plant compounds like aristolochic acid and the sulfonyl amide sweeteners saccharin and acesulfame-K. More critically with respect to food choices, these polymorphisms may vary independently from each other within and across individuals, meaning a monolithic one-size-fits-all approach to bitterness needs to be abandoned. Nor are genetic differences restricted to bitterness. Perceptual variation has also been associated with polymorphisms in genes involved in odors associated with meat defects (boar taint), green/grassy notes, and cilantro, as well as umami and sweet tastes (TAS1R1/2/3). Here, a short primer on receptor genetics is provided, followed by a summary of current knowledge, and implications for human ingestive behavior are discussed.
PMCID: PMC3714112  PMID: 23878414
2.  Transcription Factor Nrf1 Negatively Regulates the Cystine/Glutamate Transporter and Lipid-Metabolizing Enzymes 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2014;34(20):3800-3816.
Liver-specific Nrf1 (NF-E2-p45-related factor 1) knockout mice develop nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. To identify postnatal mechanisms responsible for this phenotype, we generated an inducible liver-specific Nrf1 knockout mouse line using animals harboring an Nrf1flox allele and a rat CYP1A1-Cre transgene (Nrf1flox/flox::CYP1A1-Cre mice). Administration of 3-methylcholanthrene (3-MC) to these mice (Nrf1flox/flox::CYP1A1-Cre+3MC mice) resulted in loss of hepatic Nrf1 expression. The livers of mice lacking Nrf1 accumulated lipid, and the hepatic fatty acid (FA) composition in such animals differed significantly from that in the Nrf1flox/flox::CYP1A1-Cre control. This change was provoked by upregulation of several FA metabolism genes. Unexpectedly, we also found that the level of glutathione was increased dramatically in livers of Nrf1flox/flox::CYP1A1-Cre+3MC mice. While expression of glutathione biosynthetic enzymes was unchanged, xCT, a component of the cystine/glutamate antiporter system xc−, was significantly upregulated in livers of Nrf1flox/flox::CYP1A1-Cre+3MC mice, suggesting that Nrf1 normally suppresses xCT. Thus, stress-inducible expression of xCT is a two-step process: under homeostatic conditions, Nrf1 effectively suppresses nonspecific transactivation of xCT, but when cells encounter severe oxidative/electrophilic stress, Nrf1 is displaced from an antioxidant response element (ARE) in the gene promoter while Nrf2 is recruited to the ARE. Thus, Nrf1 controls both the FA and the cystine/cysteine content of hepatocytes by participating in an elaborate regulatory network.
PMCID: PMC4187719  PMID: 25092871
3.  Do Polymorphisms in the TAS1R1 Gene Contribute to Broader Differences in Human Taste Intensity? 
Chemical Senses  2013;38(8):719-728.
The TAS1R genes encode heterodimeric receptors that mediate umami (hTAS1R1 + hTAS1R3) and sweet (hTAS1R2 + hTAS1R3) sensations. The question of interest for this study is if TAS1R1 variation associates with differences in overall taste intensity. We leveraged an existing database of adults (n = 92, primarily European American) to test associations between 2 TAS1R1 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) (intronic rs17492553, C/T and exonic rs34160967, G/A) and intensity of 4 prototypical tastants (NaCl, sucrose, citric acid, and quinine), applied regionally to fungiform and circumvallate loci, and sampled with the whole mouth. Both SNPs were associated with modest shifts in perceived intensities across all taste qualities. Three genotype groups were represented for the intronic SNP—minor allele homozygotes (TT) averaged 40% lower intensities than did CC homozygotes for all regionally applied tastants, as well as whole-mouth NaCl and citric acid. Similar, but less pronounced, intensity differences were seen for the exonic SNP (GG homozygotes reported greater intensities than did the AA/AG group). Our predominantly European American cohort had a low frequency of AA homozygotes, which may have attenuated the SNP-related differences in perceived intensity. These preliminary findings, if replicated, could add TAS1R1 polymorphisms to the repertoire of genotypic and phenotypic markers of heightened taste sensation.
PMCID: PMC3777563  PMID: 24000232
bitter; rs17492553; rs34160967; salty; sour; supertasting; sweet; taste genetics
4.  Hyperglycemia- and neuropathy-induced changes in mitochondria within sensory nerves 
This study focused on altered mitochondrial dynamics as a potential mechanism for diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN). We employed both an in vitro sensory neuron model and an in situ analysis of human intraepidermal nerve fibers (IENFs) from cutaneous biopsies to measure alterations in the size distribution of mitochondria as a result of hyperglycemia and diabetes, respectively.
Neurite- and nerve-specific mitochondrial signals within cultured rodent sensory neurons and human IENFs were measured by employing a three-dimensional visualization and quantification technique. Skin biopsies from distal thigh (DT) and distal leg (DL) were analyzed from three groups of patients; patients with diabetes and no DPN, patients with diabetes and confirmed DPN, and healthy controls.
This analysis demonstrated an increase in mitochondria distributed within the neurites of cultured sensory neurons exposed to hyperglycemic conditions. Similar changes were observed within IENFs of the DT in DPN patients compared to controls. This change was represented by a significant shift in the size frequency distribution of mitochondria toward larger mitochondria volumes within DT nerves of DPN patients. There was a length-dependent difference in mitochondria within IENFs. Distal leg IENFs from control patients had a significant shift toward larger volumes of mitochondrial signal compared to DT IENFs.
The results of this study support the hypothesis that altered mitochondrial dynamics may contribute to DPN pathogenesis. Future studies will examine the potential mechanisms that are responsible for mitochondrial changes within IENFs and its effect on DPN pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC4241807  PMID: 25493271
5.  Relationships between Perceptual Attributes and Rheology in Over-the-Counter Vaginal Products: A Potential Tool for Microbicide Development 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(9):e105614.
Vaginal microbicides are believed to have substantial potential to empower women to protect themselves from HIV, although clinical trials to date have had mixed results at best. Issues with patient adherence in these trials suggest additional emphasis should be placed on optimizing acceptability. Acceptability is driven, in part, by the sensory properties of the microbicide, so better understanding of the relationships between sensory properties and the physical and rheological properties of microbicides should facilitate the simultaneous optimization of sensory properties in parallel with the biophysical properties required for drug deployment. Recently, we have applied standard methods to assess the potential acceptability of microbicide prototypes ex vivo and to quantify the sensory properties of microbicide surrogates. Here, we link quantitative perceptual data to the rheological properties of 6 over-the counter (OTC) vaginal products used as ex vivo microbicide surrogates. Shear-thinning behavior (n) and tan δ (10 rad/s) showed no relationship with any perceptual attributes while shear storage modulus, G’ (10 rad/s) was correlated with some attributes, but did not appear to be a strong predictor of sensory properties. Conversely, the storage loss modulus, G” (10 rad/s) and the consistency coefficient, K, were correlated with several sensory attributes: stickiness, rubberiness, and uniform thickness for G’’ and stickiness, rubberiness, and peaking for K. Although these relationships merit confirmation in later studies, this pilot study suggests rheological principles can be used to understand the sensory properties evoked by microbicide surrogates assessed ex vivo. Additional work is needed to determine if these findings would apply for microbicides in vivo.
PMCID: PMC4154878  PMID: 25188244
6.  Rebaudioside A and Rebaudioside D bitterness do not covary with Acesulfame K bitterness or polymorphisms in TAS2R9 and TAS2R31 
Chemosensory perception  2013;6(3):10.1007/s12078-013-9149-9.
In order to reduce calories in foods and beverages, the food industry routinely uses non-nutritive sweeteners. Unfortunately, many are synthetically derived, and many consumers have a strong preference for natural sweeteners, irrespective of the safety data on synthetic non-nutritive sweeteners. Additionally, many non-nutritive sweeteners elicit aversive side tastes such as bitter and metallic in addition to sweetness. Bitterness thresholds of acesulfame-K (AceK) and saccharin are known to vary across bitter taste receptors polymorphisms in TAS2R31. RebA has shown to activate hTAS2R4 and hTAS2R14 in vitro. Here we examined bitterness and sweetness perception of natural and synthetic non-nutritive sweeteners. In a follow-up to a previous gene-association study, participants (n=122) who had been genotyped previously rated sweet, bitter and metallic sensations from rebaudioside A (RebA), rebaudioside D (RebD), aspartame, sucrose and gentiobiose in duplicate in a single session. For comparison, we also present sweet and bitter ratings of AceK collected in the original experiment for the same participants. At similar sweetness levels, aspartame elicited less bitterness than RebD, which was significantly less bitter than RebA. The bitterness of RebA and RebD showed wide variability across individuals, and bitterness ratings for these compounds were correlated. However, RebA and RebD bitterness did not covary with AceK bitterness. Likewise, single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) shown previously to explain variation in the suprathreshold bitterness of AceK (rs3741845 in TAS2R9 and rs10772423 in TAS2R31) did not explain variation in RebA and RebD bitterness. Because RebA activates hT2R4 and hT2R14, a SNP in TAS2R4 previously associated with variation in bitterness perception was included here; there are no known functional SNPs for TAS2R14. In present data, a putatively functional SNP (rs2234001) in TAS2R4 did not explain variation in RebA or RebD bitterness. Collectively, these data indicate the bitterness of RebA and RebD cannot be predicted by AceK bitterness, reinforcing our view that bitterness is not a simple monolithic trait that is high or low in an individual. This also implies consumers who reject AceK may not find RebA and RebD aversive, and vice versa. Finally, RebD may be a superior natural non-nutritive sweetener to RebA, as it elicits significantly less bitterness at similar levels of sweetness.
PMCID: PMC3811954  PMID: 24187601
bitterness; non-nutritive sweetener; rebaudioside A; rebaudioside D; genetics; taste phenotype; Project GIANT-CS
7.  Susceptibility of Nrf2-Null Mice to Steatohepatitis and Cirrhosis upon Consumption of a High-Fat Diet Is Associated with Oxidative Stress, Perturbation of the Unfolded Protein Response, and Disturbance in the Expression of Metabolic Enzymes but Not with Insulin Resistance 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2014;34(17):3305-3320.
Mice lacking the transcription factor NF-E2 p45-related factor 2 (Nrf2) develop more severe nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), with cirrhosis, than wild-type (Nrf2+/+) mice when fed a high-fat (HF) diet for 24 weeks. Although NASH is usually associated with insulin resistance, HF-fed Nrf2−/− mice exhibited better insulin sensitivity than HF-fed Nrf2+/+ mice. In livers of HF-fed mice, loss of Nrf2 resulted in greater induction of lipogenic genes, lower expression of β-oxidation genes, greater reduction in AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) levels, and diminished acetyl coenzyme A (CoA) carboxylase phosphorylation than in the wild-type livers, which is consistent with greater fatty acid (FA) synthesis in Nrf2−/− livers. Moreover, primary Nrf2−/− hepatocytes displayed lower glucose and FA oxidation than Nrf2+/+ hepatocytes, with FA oxidation partially rescued by treatment with AMPK activators. The unfolded protein response (UPR) was perturbed in control regular-chow (RC)-fed Nrf2−/− mouse livers, and this was associated with constitutive activation of NF-κB and JNK, along with upregulation of inflammatory genes. The HF diet elicited an antioxidant response in Nrf2+/+ livers, and as this was compromised in Nrf2−/− livers, they suffered oxidative stress. Therefore, Nrf2 protects against NASH by suppressing lipogenesis, supporting mitochondrial function, increasing the threshold for the UPR and inflammation, and enabling adaptation to HF-diet-induced oxidative stress.
PMCID: PMC4135558  PMID: 24958099
8.  Release of Tenofovir from Carrageenan-Based Vaginal Suppositories 
Pharmaceutics  2014;6(3):366-377.
Microbicides are an active area of research for HIV prevention, being developed as a woman-initiated method of prevention during unprotected coitus. Along with safety and efficacy, assessing and improving compliance is a major area of research in microbicide development. We have produced microbicide prototypes in the form of semisoft vaginal suppositories prepared from carrageenan and conducted both qualitative and quantitative studies using these prototypes to determine the physical properties that drive acceptability and possibly adherence. In order to ensure that the suppositories function as effective drug delivery vehicles, we have conducted in vitro dissolution studies in water, vaginal simulant fluid (VSF) and semen simulant fluid (SSF) with suppositories loaded with the antiretroviral drug, tenofovir (TFV). TFV was released via diffusion and matrix erosion in water or by diffusion out of the matrix in VSF and SSF. Diffusion studies were conducted in two different volumes of VSF and SSF. The volume of VSF/SSF into which TFV diffused and the size of the suppositories determined the rate of diffusion from the suppositories. About 45%–50% of the encapsulated TFV diffused out of the suppositories within the first two hours, irrespective of suppository size, diffusion medium (VSF/SSF) and the volume of medium. Prior work indicates that a short waiting period between insertion and coitus is highly desired by women; present data suggest our microbicide prototypes have rapid initial release followed by a slow release curve over the first 24 h.
PMCID: PMC4190525  PMID: 24999606
microbicide; tenofovir; dissolution; semisoft suppository; carrageenan; HIV
9.  Firmness Perception Influences Women’s Preferences for Vaginal Suppositories 
Pharmaceutics  2014;6(3):512-529.
Microbicides are being actively researched and developed as woman-initiated means to prevent HIV transmission during unprotected coitus. Along with safety and efficacy, assessing and improving compliance is a major area of research in microbicide development. We have developed carrageenan-based semisoft vaginal suppositories and have previously evaluated how physical properties such as firmness, size and shape influence women’s willingness to try them. Firmness has previously been quantified in terms of small-strain storage modulus, G’, however large-strain properties of the gels may also play a role in the firmness perception. In the current study we prepared two sets of suppositories with the same G’ but different elongation properties at four different G’ values (250, 2500, 12,500, 25,000 Pa): For convenience we refer to these as “brittle” and “elastic”, although these terms were never provided to study participants. In the first of two tests conducted to assess preference, women compared pairs of brittle and elastic suppositories and indicated their preference. We observed an interaction, as women preferred brittle suppositories at lower G’ (250, 2500 Pa) and elastic ones at a higher G’ (25,000 Pa). In the second test, women evaluated samples across different G’, rated the ease-of-insertion and willingness-to-try and ranked the samples in order of preference. Brittle suppositories at G’ of 12,500 Pa were most preferred. In vitro studies were also conducted to measure the softening of the suppositories in contact with vaginal simulant fluid (VSF). Release of antiretroviral drug tenofovir in VSF was quantified for the brittle and elastic suppositories at G’ of 12,500 Pa to determine the effect of suppository type on release. The initial rate of release was 20% slower with elastic suppositories as compared to brittle suppositories. Understanding how different physical properties simultaneously affect women’s preferences and pharmacological efficacy in terms of drug release is required for the optimization of highly acceptable and efficacious microbicides.
PMCID: PMC4190533  PMID: 25211123
microbicide; acceptability; product optimization; sensory perception; semisoft suppository; tenofovir
10.  Laser ablation of Dbx1 neurons in the pre-Bötzinger complex stops inspiratory rhythm and impairs output in neonatal mice 
eLife  2014;3:e03427.
To understand the neural origins of rhythmic behavior one must characterize the central pattern generator circuit and quantify the population size needed to sustain functionality. Breathing-related interneurons of the brainstem pre-Bötzinger complex (preBötC) that putatively comprise the core respiratory rhythm generator in mammals are derived from Dbx1-expressing precursors. Here, we show that selective photonic destruction of Dbx1 preBötC neurons in neonatal mouse slices impairs respiratory rhythm but surprisingly also the magnitude of motor output; respiratory hypoglossal nerve discharge decreased and its frequency steadily diminished until rhythm stopped irreversibly after 85±20 (mean ± SEM) cellular ablations, which corresponds to ∼15% of the estimated population. These results demonstrate that a single canonical interneuron class generates respiratory rhythm and contributes in a premotor capacity, whereas these functions are normally attributed to discrete populations. We also establish quantitative cellular parameters that govern network viability, which may have ramifications for respiratory pathology in disease states.
eLife digest
Our first breath, moments after we are born, is the result of a pattern of activity in our brain that started in the embryo and will continue almost effortlessly until we die. Like other rhythmic activities, such as walking and swimming, breathing originates from circuits of neurons in the brain that generate patterns. These circuits pass messages to other cells that translate them into the physical movements required to take a breath. Interrupting these patterns by injury or illness can lead to breathing disorders or cause death.
Previous studies have identified a class of neuron, which all express a specific gene, that is necessary for breathing. Mice born without this class of cell failed to ever take a breath and died at birth. These neurons are found in part of the brainstem and can continue to generate rhythm even when this section of the brainstem is removed from newborn mice and cut into very thin slices. However, it is unclear how many of these neurons are needed to maintain a breathing rhythm.
Wang et al. used a laser to destroy the breathing rhythm-generating neurons in these slices one at a time and found that the rhythm of breathing in (i.e., inspiration) stopped after ∼15% of the neurons were destroyed. This suggests that a high percentage of these neurons must be maintained for breathing to continue normally.
Wang et al. also discovered that destroying the rhythm-generating neurons reduced the strength of the signals sent from the brainstem to trigger the movements that cause breathing in. This suggests that the same class of neurons also sends messages to the muscles involved in breathing; it was previously thought that a separate class of cell in the same part of the brain sent these messages.
Studies involving live animals are now needed to confirm the results. If confirmed, the findings may be used to develop new treatments for a number of breathing disorders. Medications that boost the signals sent to the muscles by these neurons might be useful for treating sleep apnea. Wang et al. also suggest that medications that boost rhythm generation might be useful for premature infants with breathing difficulties and people with drug-induced breathing problems. Moreover, finding ways to maintain breathing rhythms with fewer of these neurons may help those with neurodegenerative disorders, which cause cells in the brain to be lost.
PMCID: PMC4129438  PMID: 25027440
respiration; breathing; central pattern generator; two-photon microscopy; preBötzinger complex; mouse
11.  Bitterness of the Non-nutritive Sweetener Acesulfame Potassium Varies With Polymorphisms in TAS2R9 and TAS2R31  
Chemical Senses  2013;38(5):379-389.
Demand for nonnutritive sweeteners continues to increase due to their ability to provide desirable sweetness with minimal calories. Acesulfame potassium and saccharin are well-studied nonnutritive sweeteners commonly found in food products. Some individuals report aversive sensations from these sweeteners, such as bitter and metallic side tastes. Recent advances in molecular genetics have provided insight into the cause of perceptual differences across people. For example, common alleles for the genes TAS2R9 and TAS2R38 explain variable response to the bitter drugs ofloxacin in vitro and propylthiouracil in vivo. Here, we wanted to determine whether differences in the bitterness of acesulfame potassium could be predicted by common polymorphisms (genetic variants) in bitter taste receptor genes (TAS2Rs). We genotyped participants (n = 108) for putatively functional single nucleotide polymorphisms in 5 TAS2Rs and asked them to rate the bitterness of 25 mM acesulfame potassium on a general labeled magnitude scale. Consistent with prior reports, we found 2 single nucleotide polymorphisms in TAS2R31 were associated with acesulfame potassium bitterness. However, TAS2R9 alleles also predicted additional variation in acesulfame potassium bitterness. Conversely, single nucleotide polymorphisms in TAS2R4, TAS2R38, and near TAS2R16 were not significant predictors. Using 1 single nucleotide polymorphism each from TAS2R9 and TAS2R31, we modeled the simultaneous influence of these single nucleotide polymorphisms on acesulfame potassium bitterness; together, these 2 single nucleotide polymorphisms explained 13.4% of the variance in perceived bitterness. These data suggest multiple polymorphisms within TAS2Rs contribute to the ability to perceive the bitterness from acesulfame potassium.
PMCID: PMC3657735  PMID: 23599216
bitterness; genetics; noncaloric sweetener; Project GIANT-CS; saccharin; taste phenotype
12.  Transcription Factor Nrf1 Is Topologically Repartitioned across Membranes to Enable Target Gene Transactivation through Its Acidic Glucose-Responsive Domains 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e93458.
The membrane-bound Nrf1 transcription factor regulates critical homeostatic and developmental genes. The conserved N-terminal homology box 1 (NHB1) sequence in Nrf1 targets the cap‘n’collar (CNC) basic basic-region leucine zipper (bZIP) factor to the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), but it is unknown how its activity is controlled topologically within membranes. Herein, we report a hitherto unknown mechanism by which the transactivation activity of Nrf1 is controlled through its membrane-topology. Thus after Nrf1 is anchored within ER membranes, its acidic transactivation domains (TADs), including the Asn/Ser/Thr-rich (NST) glycodomain situated between acidic domain 1 (AD1) and AD2, are transiently translocated into the lumen of the ER, where NST is glycosylated in the presence of glucose to yield an inactive 120-kDa Nrf1 glycoprotein. Subsequently, portions of the TADs partially repartition across membranes into the cyto/nucleoplasmic compartments, whereupon an active 95-kDa form of Nrf1 accumulates, a process that is more obvious in glucose-deprived cells and may involve deglycosylation. The repartitioning of Nrf1 out of membranes is monitored within this protein by its acidic-hydrophobic amphipathic glucose-responsive domains, particularly the Neh5L subdomain within AD1. Therefore, the membrane-topological organization of Nrf1 dictates its post-translational modifications (i.e. glycosylation, the putative deglycosylation and selective proteolysis), which together control its ability to transactivate target genes.
PMCID: PMC3973704  PMID: 24695487
13.  Direct comparison of the generalized Visual Analog Scale (gVAS) and general Labeled Magnitude Scale (gLMS) 
Food quality and preference  2012;28(1):36-44.
Hundreds of studies have used the generalized Labeled Magnitude Scale (gLMS) to collect intensity data. Recent work on generalized affective scales like the Labeled Affective Magnitude (LAM) scale and Labeled Hedonic Scale (LHS) suggest a substantial proportion of participants fail to use the entire range of generalized scales, marking only at the adjective labels. This categorical behavior (i.e., clustering) is not limited to affective ratings, as it is well known anecdotally among users of the gLMS. One way to stop this behavior would be to retain a generalized top anchor and cross modal orientation procedure while stripping away the internal adjectives. Several published studies have already used this variant, the generalized Visual Analog Scale (gVAS). Because there are no reports directly comparing the gVAS and gLMS head to head, we did so in two experiments. In Experiment 1, participants (n=87) were randomized to 1 of 3 conditions to test effects of scaling instructions and scale structure. In Experiment 2, participants (n=58) assessed perceived ease of use and resolving power for each scale in a two-session crossover design. gLMS data showed evidence of categorical behavior, while gVAS data did not. Explicitly instructing participants to rate between adjectives did not reduce this behavior. The gLMS was easier to use according to participants, but resulted in non-normal data due to clustering near the adjective labels. gVAS data did not show categorical behavior, as there are no adjectives to cluster around, but the gVAS sacrifices semantic information about the magnitude of response. Regardless of scale type, participants felt the cross-modal orientation procedure helped them understand how to use the scale. Both scales were able to discriminate between sucrose samples in a concentration series. Relative tradeoffs between the two methods suggest the choice of one scale over the other depends on the specific goals and context of the project.
PMCID: PMC3501107  PMID: 23175601
14.  Personality factors predict spicy food liking and intake 
Food quality and preference  2012;28(1):213-221.
A number of factors likely affect the liking of capsaicin-containing foods such as social influences, repeated exposure to capsaicin, physiological differences in chemosensation, and personality. For example, it is well known that repeated exposure to capsaicin and chilies can result in chronic desensitization. Here, we explore the relationship between multiple personality variables – body awareness/consciousness, sensation seeking, and sensitivity to punishment, and sensitivity to reward – and the liking and consumption of capsaicin-containing foods. As expected, a strong relationship was found between liking of spicy foods and frequency of chili consumption. However, no association was observed between frequency of chili consumption and the perceived burn/sting of sampled capsaicin. Nor was there any association between perceived burn/sting of capsaicin and any of the personality measures. Private Body Consciousness did not relate to any of the measures used in the current study. Sensation Seeking showed positive correlations with the liking of spicy foods, but not non-spicy control foods. Sensitivity to Punishment showed no relation with frequency of chili consumption, and nonsignificant negative trends with liking of spicy foods. Conversely, Sensitivity to Reward was weakly though significantly correlated with the liking of a spicy meal, and similar nonsignificant trends were seen for other spicy foods. Frequency of chili consumption was positively associated with Sensation Seeking and Sensitivity to Reward. Present data indicate individuals who enjoy spicy foods exhibit higher Sensation Seeking and Sensitivity to Reward traits. Rather than merely showing reduced response to the irritating qualities of capsaicin as might be expected under the chronic desensitization hypothesis, these findings support the hypothesis that personality differences may drive differences in spicy food liking and intake.
PMCID: PMC3607321  PMID: 23538555
individual differences; SPSRQ; AISS; PBC; sensation seeking; food preference; Project GIANT-CS
15.  Shape of vaginal suppositories affects willingness-to-try and preference 
Antiviral research  2012;97(3):280-284.
HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are a global threat to public health that may be countered, in part, by microbicides. A successful microbicide must be both biologically efficacious and highly acceptable to users. Sensory attributes have a direct influence on product acceptability. We created a series of vaginal suppositories appropriate for use as microbicides to investigate the influence of shape on women's willingness-to-try. The influence of perceived size and firmness on acceptability was also assessed.
Sexually-active women (n=99) were invited to participate in an evaluation of vaginal suppositories in 5 different shapes including: Bullet, Long Oval, Round Oval, Teardrop and Tampon. The volume (3 ml) and formulation for these 5 prototypes were identical. After manipulating prototypes ex vivo (in their hands), participants rated their willingness-to-try on a 100-point visual analog scale. The appropriateness of size and firmness were evaluated using 5-point just-about-right (JAR) scales. Each participant evaluated all 5 prototypes individually. Samples were presented in a counterbalanced monadic sequence using a Williams design.
Mean willingness-to-try varied by shape, with Bullet and Long Oval receiving significantly higher scores. This was consistent with JAR data for size, as 70 and 65% of women indicated these shapes were `just-about–right', respectively. In contrast, a minority of women endorsed the other 3 shapes as having a size that was `just-about-right'. The proportion of women who felt the firmness was `just-about-right' was uniformly high, irrespective of shape, suggesting prior attempts to optimize the formula were successful. Perceptions of size and firmness were influenced by the physical length and width of the prototypes, in spite of having constant volume. Women showed high willingness-to-try when asked to assume they were at risk. These results are relevant for behavioral and formulation scientists working on microbicides, to better understand the influence of sensory attributes on acceptability, as acceptability and compliance ultimately impact effectiveness.
PMCID: PMC3608716  PMID: 23276592
Microbicide; acceptability; consumer behavior; product optimization; sensory perception; just-about-right (JAR) scale
16.  Masking Vegetable Bitterness to Improve Palatability Depends on Vegetable Type and Taste Phenotype 
Chemosensory perception  2012;6(1):8-19.
Consumption of dark green vegetables falls short of recommendations, in part, because of unpleasant bitterness. A laboratory-based study of 37 adults was used to determine bitter and hedonic responses to vegetables (asparagus, Brussels sprouts, kale) with bitter masking agents (1.33 M sodium acetate, 10 and 32 mM sodium chloride, and 3.2 mM aspartame) and then characterized by taste phenotype and vegetable liking. In repeated-measures ANOVA, aspartame was most effective at suppressing bitterness and improving hedonic responses for all sampled vegetables. Among the sodium salts, 32 mM sodium chloride decreased bitterness for kale and sodium acetate reduced bitterness across all vegetables with a tendency to increase liking for Brussels sprouts, as release from mixture suppression increased perceived sweetness. Participants were nearly equally divided into three 6-n-propylthiouracil (PROP) phenotype groups. Those tasting the least PROP bitterness (non-tasters) reported least vegetable bitterness, and the additives produced little change in vegetable liking. Aspartame persisted as the most effective bitter blocker for the PROP tasters (medium, supertasters), improving vegetable liking for the medium tasters but too much sweetness for supertasters. The sodium salts showed some bitter blocking for PROP tasters, particularly sodium acetate, without significant gains in vegetable liking. Via a survey, adults characterized as low vegetable likers reported greater increase in vegetable liking with the maskers than did vegetable likers. These results suggest that bitter masking agents (mainly sweeteners) can suppress bitterness to increase acceptance if they are matched to perceived vegetable bitterness or to self-reported vegetable disliking.
PMCID: PMC3652488  PMID: 23682306
Bitter; Food preference; Genetics; Salt; Sweet; Taste; Vegetables
17.  Muscle-specific expression of LARGE restores neuromuscular transmission deficits in dystrophic LARGEmyd mice 
Human Molecular Genetics  2012;22(4):757-768.
Mutations in several glycosyltransferases underlie a group of muscular dystrophies known as glycosylation-deficient muscular dystrophy. A common feature of these diseases is loss of glycosylation and consequent dystroglycan function that is correlated with severe pathology in muscle, brain and other tissues. Although glycosylation of dystroglycan is essential for function in skeletal muscle, whether glycosylation-dependent function of dystroglycan is sufficient to explain all complex pathological features associated with these diseases is less clear. Dystroglycan glycosylation is defective in LARGEmyd (myd) mice as a result of a mutation in like-acetylglucosaminyltransferase (LARGE), a glycosyltransferase known to cause muscle disease in humans. We generated animals with restored dystroglycan function exclusively in skeletal muscle by crossing myd animals to a recently created transgenic line that expresses LARGE selectively in differentiated muscle. Transgenic myd mice were indistinguishable from wild-type littermates and demonstrated an amelioration of muscle disease as evidenced by an absence of muscle pathology, restored contractile function and a reduction in serum creatine kinase activity. Moreover, although deficits in nerve conduction and neuromuscular transmission were observed in myd animals, these deficits were fully rescued by muscle-specific expression of LARGE, which resulted in restored structure of the neuromuscular junction (NMJ). These data demonstrate that, in addition to muscle degeneration and dystrophy, impaired neuromuscular transmission contributes to muscle weakness in dystrophic myd mice and that the noted defects are primarily due to the effects of LARGE and glycosylated dystroglycan in stabilizing the endplate of the NMJ.
PMCID: PMC3554202  PMID: 23222475
18.  Nrf2 is controlled by two distinct β-TrCP recognition motifs in its Neh6 domain, one of which can be modulated by GSK-3 activity. 
Oncogene  2012;32(32):3765-3781.
Identification of regulatable mechanisms by which transcription factor NF-E2 p45-related factor 2 (Nrf2) is repressed will allow strategies to be designed that counter drug resistance associated with its up-regulation in tumours that harbour somatic mutations in Kelch-like ECH-associated protein-1 (Keap1), a gene that encodes a joint adaptor and substrate receptor for the Cul3-Rbx1/Roc1 ubiquitin ligase. We now show that mouse Nrf2 contains two binding sites for β-transducin repeat-containing protein (β-TrCP), which acts as a substrate receptor for the Skp1-Cul1-Rbx1/Roc1 ubiquitin ligase complex. Deletion of either binding site in Nrf2 decreased β-TrCP-mediated ubiquitylation of the transcription factor. The ability of one of the two β-TrCP-binding sites to serve as a degron could be both increased and decreased by manipulation of glycogen synthase kinase-3 (GSK-3) activity. Biotinylated-peptide pull-down assays identified DSGIS338 and DSAPGS378 as the two β-TrCP-binding motifs in Nrf2. Significantly, our pull-down assays indicated that β-TrCP binds a phosphorylated version of DSGIS more tightly than its non-phosphorylated counterpart, whereas this was not the case for DSAPGS. These data suggest that DSGIS, but not DSAPGS, contains a functional GSK-3 phosphorylation site. Activation of GSK-3 in Keap1-null mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs), or in human lung A549 cells that contain mutant Keap1, by inhibition of the phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) – protein kinase B (PKB)/Akt pathway markedly reduced endogenous Nrf2 protein and decreased to 10-50% of normal the levels of mRNA for prototypic Nrf2-regulated enzymes, including the glutamate-cysteine ligase catalytic and modifier subunits, glutathione S-transferases Alpha-1 and Mu-1, heme oxygenase-1 and NAD(P)H:quinone oxidoreductase-1. Pre-treatment of Keap1−/− MEFs or A549 cells with the LY294002 PI3K inhibitor or the MK-2206 PKB/Akt inhibitor increased their sensitivity to acrolein, chlorambucil and cisplatin between 1.9-fold and 3.1-fold, and this was substantially attenuated by simultaneous pre-treatment with the GSK-3 inhibitor CT99021.
PMCID: PMC3522573  PMID: 22964642
Nrf2; β-TrCP; GSK-3; oxidative stress; drug resistance; ubiquitylation
19.  Apolipoprotein E Knockout as the Basis for Mouse Models of Dyslipidemia-Induced Neuropathy 
Experimental neurology  2012;239:102-110.
Dyslipidemia has been identified as an important pathogenic risk factor for diabetic neuropathy, but current animal models do not adequately reproduce the lipid profile observed in human diabetics (increased triglycerides with an elevated LDL-cholesterol and reduced HDL-cholesterol). High fat feeding of mice produces hyperlipidemia, but mice are resistant to increases in the LDL to HDL ratio, reducing the potential for peripheral lipid deposits to impact neuropathy, as is postulated to occur in human subjects. Genetic manipulations provide an alternative approach to reproducing a neuropathic plasma lipid profile. Based on findings from the atherosclerosis literature, we began with knockout of ApoE. Since knockout of ApoE alone only partially mimics the human diabetic lipid profile, we examined the impact of its combination with a well-characterized model of type 2 diabetes exhibiting neuropathy, the db/db mouse. We added further gene manipulations to increase hyperlipidemia by using mice with both ApoE and ApoB48 knockout on the ob/+ (leptin mutation) mice. In all of these models, we found that either the db/db or ob/ob genotypes had increased body weight, hyperlipidemia, hyperglycemia, and evidence of neuropathy compared with the control groups (db/+ or ob/+, respectively). We found that ApoE knockout combined with leptin receptor knockout produced a lipid profile most closely modeling human dyslipidemia that promotes neuropathy. ApoE knockout combined with additional ApoB48 and leptin knockout produced similar changes of smaller magnitude, but, notably, an increase in HDL-cholesterol. Our data suggest that the overall effects of ApoE knockout, either directly upon nerve structure and function or indirectly on lipid metabolism, are insufficient to significantly alter the course of diabetic neuropathy. Although these models ultimately do not deliver optimal lipid profiles for translational diabetic neuropathy research, they do present glycemic and lipid profile properties of value for future therapeutic investigations.
PMCID: PMC3534788  PMID: 23059459
peripheral neuropathy; dyslipidemia; diabetes; apolipoprotein E; apolipoprotein B48; lipid profile; mouse
20.  Crowdsourcing taste research: genetic and phenotypic predictors of bitter taste perception as a model 
Understanding the influence of taste perception on food choice has captured the interest of academics, industry, and the general public, the latter as evidenced by the extent of popular media coverage and use of the term supertaster. Supertasters are highly sensitive to the bitter tastant propylthiouracil (PROP) and its chemical relative phenylthiocarbamide. The well-researched differences in taste sensitivity to these bitter chemicals are partially controlled by variation in the TAS2R38 gene; however, this variation alone does not explain the supertaster phenomenon. It has been suggested that density of papillae, which house taste buds, may explain supertasting. To address the unresolved role of papillae, we used crowdsourcing in the museum-based Genetics of Taste Lab. This community lab is uniquely situated to attract both a large population of human subjects and host a team of citizen scientists to research population-based questions about human genetics, taste, and health. Using this model, we find that PROP bitterness is not in any way predicted by papillae density. This result holds within the whole sample, when divided into major diplotypes, and when correcting for age, sex, and genotype. Furthermore, it holds when dividing participants into oft-used taster status groups. These data argue against the use of papillae density in predicting taste sensitivity and caution against imprecise use of the term supertaster. Furthermore, it supports a growing volume of evidence that sets the stage for hypergeusia, a reconceptualization of heightened oral sensitivity that is not based solely on PROP or papillae density. Finally, our model demonstrates how community-based research can serve as a unique venue for both study participation and citizen science that makes scientific research accessible and relevant to people’s everyday lives.
PMCID: PMC4035552  PMID: 24904324
genetics; taste; citizen science; crowdsourcing; TAS2R38
21.  Using milk fat to reduce the irritation and bitter taste of ibuprofen 
Chemosensory perception  2012;5(3-4):231-236.
Bitterness and irritation elicited by pharmaceutically active molecules remain problematic for pediatric medications, fortified foods and dietary supplements. Few effective methods exist for reducing these unpalatable sensations, negatively impacting medication compliance and intake of beneficial phytonutrients. A physicochemical approach to masking these sensations may be the most successful approach for generalizability to a wide range of structurally and functionally unique compounds. Here, solutions of the non-steroidal anti- inflammatory drug, ibuprofen, were prepared in milk products with varying fat content. Our hypothesis, based on other reports of similar phenomena, was that increasing the fat content would cause ibuprofen to selectively partition into the fat phase, thereby reducing interaction with sensory receptors and decreasing adversive sensations. Quantification of the aqueous concentration of ibuprofen was performed using an isocratic HPLC method coupled with an external standard curve. Sensory testing showed a modest but significant decrease (~20%) in irritation ratings between the skim milk (0% fat) and the half-and-half (11% fat) samples, indicating that increased fat may contribute to a reduced sensory response. Bitterness was not reduced, remaining constant over all fat levels. The HPLC results indicate a constant amount of ibuprofen remained in the aqueous phase regardless of fat level, so a simple partitioning hypothesis cannot explain the reduced irritancy ratings. Association of ionized ibuprofen with continuous phase solutes such as unabsorbed protein should be explored in future work.
PMCID: PMC3603579  PMID: 23527314
22.  The Longitudinal Study of Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators: Methods and Clinical Characteristics of Patients Receiving Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators for Primary Prevention in Contemporary Practice 
Implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) are increasingly used for primary prevention followingrandomized controlled trials (RCTs) demonstrating that they reduce the risk of death in patients with left ventricular systolic dysfunction (LVSD). The extent to which the clinical characteristics and long-term outcomes of unselected, community-based patients with LVSD undergoing primary prevention ICD implantation in a real-world setting compare with those enrolled in the RCTs is not well characterized. The Longitudinal Study of ICDs is being conducted to address these questions.
Methods and Results
The study cohort includes consecutive patients undergoing primary prevention ICD placement between 1/1/2006 and 12/31/2009 in seven health plans. Baseline clinical characteristics were acquired from the NCDRICD Registry. Longitudinal data collection is underway and will include hospitalization, mortality, and resource utilization from the Virtual Data Warehouse. Data regarding ICD therapies will be obtained through chart abstraction and adjudicated by a panel of experts in device therapy. Compared with the populations of primary prevention ICD therapy RCTs, the cohort (n=2,621) is on average significantly older (by 2.5-6.5 years); more often female, more often from racial and ethnic minority groups, and has a significantly higher burden of coexisting conditions. The cohort is similar, however, to a national population undergoing primary prevention ICD placement.
Patients undergoing primary prevention ICD implantation in the Longitudinal Study of ICDs differ from those enrolled in the RCTs that established the efficacy of ICDs. Understanding a broad range of health outcomes, including ICD therapies, in this cohort will provide patients, clinicians, and policy-makers with contemporary data to inform decision-making.
PMCID: PMC3526187  PMID: 23170006
arrhythmia; electrophysiology; epidemiology
23.  Rejection Thresholds in Chocolate Milk: Evidence for Segmentation 
Food quality and preference  2012;26(1):128-133.
Bitterness is generally considered a negative attribute in food, yet many individuals enjoy some bitterness in products like coffee or chocolate. In chocolate, bitterness arises from naturally occurring alkaloids and phenolics found in cacao. Fermentation and roasting help develop typical chocolate flavor and reduce the intense bitterness of raw cacao by modifying these bitter compounds. As it becomes increasingly common to fortify chocolate with `raw' cacao to increase the amount of healthful phytonutrients, it is important to identify the point at which the concentration of bitter compounds becomes objectionable, even to those who enjoy some bitterness. Classical threshold methods focus on the presence or absence of a sensation rather than acceptability or hedonics. A new alternative, the rejection threshold, was recently described in the literature. Here, we sought to quantify and compare differences in Rejection Thresholds (RjT) and Detection Thresholds (DT) in chocolate milk spiked with a food safe bitterant (sucrose octaacetate). In experiment 1, a series of paired preference tests was used to estimate the RjT for bitterness in chocolate milk. In a new group of participants (experiment 2), we determined the RjT and DT using the forced choice ascending method of limits. In both studies, participants were segmented on the basis of self-declared preference for milk or dark solid chocolate. Based on sigmoid fits of the indifference-preference function, the RjT was ~2.3 times higher for those preferring dark chocolate than the RjT for those preferring milk chocolate in both experiments. In contrast, the DT for both groups was functionally identical, suggesting that differential effects of bitterness on liking of chocolate products are not based on the ability to detect bitterness in these products.
PMCID: PMC3384682  PMID: 22754143
bitterness; consumer rejection threshold; food preference; psychophysics; methodology
24.  Rejection Thresholds in Solid Chocolate-Flavored Compound Coating 
Journal of food science  2012;77(10):S390-S393.
Classical detection thresholds do not predict liking, as they focus on the presence or absence of a sensation. Recently however, Prescott and colleagues described a new method, the rejection threshold, where a series of forced choice preference tasks are used to generate a dose-response function to determine hedonically acceptable concentrations. That is, how much is too much? To date, this approach has been used exclusively in liquid foods. Here, we determined group rejection thresholds in solid chocolate-flavored compound coating for bitterness. The influences of self-identified preferences for milk or dark chocolate, as well as eating style (chewers versus melters) on rejection thresholds were investigated. Stimuli included milk chocolate-flavored compound coating spiked with increasing amounts of sucrose octaacetate (SOA), a bitter GRAS additive. Paired preference tests (blank vs. spike) were used to determine the proportion of the group that preferred the blank. Across pairs, spiked samples were presented in ascending concentration. We were able to quantify and compare differences between two self-identified market segments. The rejection threshold for the dark chocolate preferring group was significantly higher than the milk chocolate preferring group (p = 0.01). Conversely, eating style did not affect group rejection thresholds (p = 0.14), although this may reflect the amount of chocolate given to participants. Additionally, there was no association between chocolate preference and eating style (p = 0.36). Present work supports the contention that this method can be used to examine preferences within specific market segments and potentially individual differences as they relate to ingestive behavior.
PMCID: PMC3472037  PMID: 22924788
Bitterness; rejection threshold; food preference; psychophysics; methodology
25.  Mouse Models of Diabetic Neuropathy 
Neurobiology of disease  2007;28(3):276-285.
Diabetic neuropathy (DN) is a debilitating complication of type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Rodent models of DN do not fully replicate the pathology observed in human patients. We examined DN in streptozotocin (STZ)-induced [B6] and spontaneous type 1 diabetes [B6Ins2Akita] and spontaneous type 2 diabetes [B6-db/db, BKS-db/db]. DN was defined using the criteria of the Animal Models of Diabetic Complications Consortium ( Despite persistent hyperglycemia, the STZ-treated B6 and B6Ins2Akita mice were resistant to the development of DN. In contrast, DN developed in both type 2 diabetes models: the B6-db/db and BKS-db/db mice. The persistence of hyperglycemia and development of DN in the B6-db/db mice required an increased fat diet while the BKS-db/db mice developed severe DN and remained hyperglycemic on standard mouse chow. Our data support the hypothesis that genetic background and diet influence the development of DN and should be considered when developing new models of DN.
PMCID: PMC3730836  PMID: 17804249
BKS; streptozotocin; B6Ins2Akita; sciatic nerve; dorsal root ganglia

Results 1-25 (73)