Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology

Ongoing ingestive behavior is rapidly suppressed by a preabsorptive, intestinal “bitter taste” cue

Lindsey A. Schier, Terry L. Davidson, Terry L. Powley


The discovery that cells in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract express the same molecular receptors and intracellular signaling components known to be involved in taste has generated great interest in potential functions of such post-oral “taste” receptors in the control of food intake. To determine whether taste cues in the GI tract are detected and can directly influence behavior, the present study used a microbehavioral analysis of intake, in which rats drank from lickometers that were programmed to simultaneously deliver a brief yoked infusion of a taste stimulus to the intestines. Specifically, in daily 30-min sessions, thirsty rats with indwelling intraduodenal catheters were trained to drink hypotonic (0.12 M) sodium chloride (NaCl) and simultaneously self-infuse a 0.12 M NaCl solution. Once trained, in a subsequent series of intestinal taste probe trials, rats reduced licking during a 6-min infusion period, when a bitter stimulus denatonium benzoate (DB; 10 mM) was added to the NaCl vehicle for infusion, apparently conditioning a mild taste aversion. Presentation of the DB in isomolar lithium chloride (LiCl) for intestinal infusions accelerated the development of the response across trials and strengthened the temporal resolution of the early licking suppression in response to the arrival of the DB in the intestine. In an experiment to evaluate whether CCK is involved as a paracrine signal in transducing the intestinal taste of DB, the CCK-1R antagonist devazepide partially blocked the response to intestinal DB. In contrast to their ability to detect and avoid the bitter taste in the intestine, rats did not modify their licking to saccharin intraduodenal probe infusions. The intestinal taste aversion paradigm developed here provides a sensitive and effective protocol for evaluating which tastants—and concentrations of tastants—in the lumen of the gut can control ingestion.

  • chemoreceptor
  • gastrointestinal
  • denatonium benzoate
  • food learning
  • cholecystokinin
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