The sweet taste receptor is a heterodimer of two G protein coupled receptors, T1R2 and T1R3. This discovery has increased our understanding at the molecular level of the mechanisms underlying sweet taste. Previous experimental studies using sweet receptor chimeras and mutants show that there are at least three potential binding sites in this heterodimeric receptor. Receptor activity toward the artificial sweeteners aspartame and neotame depends on residues in the amino terminal domain of human T1R2. In contrast, receptor activity toward the sweetener cyclamate and the sweet taste inhibitor lactisole depends on residues within the transmembrane domain of human T1R3. Furthermore, receptor activity toward the sweet protein brazzein depends on the cysteine rich domain of human T1R3. Although crystal structures are not available for the sweet taste receptor, useful homology models can be developed based on appropriate templates. The amino terminal domain, cysteine rich domain and transmembrane helix domain of T1R2 and T1R3 have been modeled based on the crystal structures of metabotropic glutamate receptor type 1, tumor necrosis factor receptor, and bovine rhodopsin, respectively. We have used homology models of the sweet taste receptors, molecular docking of sweet ligands to the receptors, and site-directed mutagenesis of the receptors to identify potential ligand binding sites of the sweet taste receptor. These studies have led to a better understanding of the structure and function of this heterodimeric receptor, and can act as a guide for rational structure-based design of novel non-caloric sweeteners, which can be used in the fighting against obesity and diabetes.
Keywords: Homology modeling, molecular docking, site-directed mutagenesis, sweeteners, sweet taste inhibitors, sweet proteins
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