Author(s): Clark AA, Liggett SB, Munger SD
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Abstract We present a novel hypothesis that could explain many off-target effects of diverse pharmaceuticals. Specifically, we propose that any drug with a bitter taste could have unintended actions in the body through stimulation of extraoral type 2 taste receptors (T2Rs). T2Rs were first identified in the oral cavity, where they function as bitter taste receptors. However, recent findings indicate that they are also expressed outside the gustatory system, including in the gastrointestinal and respiratory systems. T2R ligands include a diverse array of natural and synthetic compounds, many of which are toxins. Notably, many pharmaceuticals taste bitter, with compounds such as chloroquine, haloperidol, erythromycin, procainamide, and ofloxacin known to activate T2Rs. Bitter-tasting compounds can have specific physiological effects in T2R-expressing cells. For example, T2Rs are found in some gastrointestinal endocrine cells, including those that secrete the peptide hormones (e.g., ghrelin and glucagon-like peptide-1) in response to stimulation by bitter-tasting compounds. In the respiratory system, stimulation of T2Rs expressed in respiratory epithelia and smooth muscle has been implicated in protective airway reflexes, ciliary beating, and bronchodilation. If our hypothesis is confirmed, it would offer a new paradigm for understanding the off-target actions of diverse drugs and could reveal potential new therapeutic targets.
This article was published in FASEB J
and referenced in Clinical Pharmacology & Biopharmaceutics