The human sense of taste is crucial for the assessment of the chemical composition of food, a major determinant of food choice and thus, is critical for a healthy nutrition. A plethora of sour, salty, sweet, umami and bitter compounds have to be accurately and simultaneously detected by dozens of specialized taste receptors in the oral cavity as well as in non-gustatory tissues to trigger appropriate taste behaviors and other physiological responses, creating an enormous level of complexity. To match tastants with taste receptors and with their gustatory and non-gustatory effects, we use cell biological, biochemical and molecular methods, which are also suitable to identify taste modulators, to characterize receptor binding pockets and to study tastant mixture effects. Our research has resulted in the deorphanization of numerous bitter taste receptors, the discovery of the first selective bitter taste receptor blockers, and allowed a detailed insight into the architectures of ligand binding pockets of broadly tuned bitter taste receptors. Our data on receptor-tastant profiles will promote the prediction of taste characteristics of complex food and the repurposing of tastants for health improvements.
- Understanding the molecular basis of human taste perception
- Structure-function analyses of taste receptors – can we predict taste modifiers de novo?
- Physiological functions of extra-oral taste receptors – are tastants drugs?
- Evolution of taste receptors – how did nutritional habits evolve?
- Discovery of taste modifiers and mixture effects – how are complex food items perceived?
|2018 – current||
Leibniz-Institute of Food Systems Biology at the TU Munich, Freising|
Group leader Taste & Odor Systems Reception
|Habilitation (2013)||University of Potsdam, Potsdam|
|2000 – 2018||
German Institute of Human Nutrition Potsdam-Rehbruecke, Nuthetal|
Senior Scientist Dept. Molecular Genetics
|1997 – 2000||
University of Maryland, Baltimore, MD, USA|
Postdoctoral fellow School of Medicine, Dept. of Anatomy and Neurobiology
|Dr. rer. nat. (1997)||University of Hamburg, Hamburg|
|1993 – 1996||
University of Hamburg, Hamburg|
Ph.D. student School of Medicine, Institute for Cell Biochemistry and Clinical Neurobiology
Diploma Biology (1993) University of Hamburg, Hamburg
1996 |Best Dissertation in Biology University of Hamburg, Hamburg
|2011 - 2014||Program committee member AChemS|
|2009 - 2018||Editorial board member World Journal of Biological Chemistry|
|2011 - current||Academic editor PLoS One|
|2014 - current||Editorial board member Chemical Senses|
|2019 - current||Specialist advisor HUGO Gene Nomenclature Committee|
|2002 – 2017||Lecture & Seminar “Cellular Signal Transduction”, University of Potsdam|
|2016 – 2017||Lecture “Functional Anatomy and Physiology of Inner Organs”, University of Potsdam|
|2017 – 2018||Lecture “Molecular Sensory Science”|
|2019 – current||Lecture “Chemosensory Perception”, TU Munich|
|2019 – current||Seminar “Recent Advances in Chemosensory Research”, TU Munich|
|2002 – 2014||Practical courses in Zoology, Molecular Genetics & Cellular Signal Transduction, University of Potsdam|
|2020 – current||Internship “Chemosensory Perception”|
|2001 – current||Supervision of 10 Ph.D. students, 1 Diploma student, 3 Master students, 7 Bachelor students, University of Potsdam & TU Munich|
(See ORCID for complete list)
1. Behrens, M.*, Foerster, S., Staehler, F., Raguse, J.-D., and Meyerhof, W. (2007) Gustatory expression pattern of the human TAS2R bitter receptor gene family reveals a heterogenous population of bitter responsive taste receptor cells. J. Neurosci., 27, 12630-12640.
2. Meyerhof, W.*, Batram, C., Kuhn, C., Brockhoff, A., Chudoba, E., Bufe, B., Appendino, G., and Behrens, M. (2010) The molecular receptive ranges of human TAS2R bitter taste receptors. Chem. Senses, 35, 157-170.
3. Brockhoff, A., Behrens, M., Niv, M. Y., and Meyerhof, W.* (2010) Structural requirements of bitter taste receptor activation. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA., 107, 11110-11115.
4. Born, S., Levit, A., Niv, M. Y, Meyerhof, W., and Behrens, M.* (2013) The human bitter taste receptor TAS2R10 is tailored to accommodate numerous diverse ligands. J. Neurosci., 33, 201-213.
5. Behrens, M.*, Korsching, S. I., and Meyerhof, W. (2014) Tuning properties of avian and frog bitter taste receptors dynamically fit gene repertoire sizes. Mol. Biol. Evol., 31, 3216-3227.
6. Behrens, M.*, Blank, K., and Meyerhof, W. (2017) Blends of non-caloric sweeteners saccharin and cyclamate show reduced off-taste due to TAS2R bitter receptor inhibition. Cell Chem. Biol., 24, 1199-1204.
7. Prandi, S., Voigt, A., Meyerhof, W., and Behrens, M.* (2018) Expression profiling of Tas2r genes reveals a complex pattern along the mouse GI tract and the presence of Tas2r131 in a subset of intestinal Paneth cells. Cell. Mol. Life Sci., 75, 49-65.
8. Nowak, S., Di Pizio, A., Levit, A., Niv, M. Y., Meyerhof, W., and Behrens, M.* (2018) Reengineering the ligand sensitivity of the broadly tuned human bitter taste receptor TAS2R14. Biochim. Biophys. Acta, Gen. Subj., 1862, 2162-2173.
9. Di Pizio, A., Waterloo, L. A. W., Brox, R., Loeber, S., Weikert, D., Behrens, M.*, Gmeiner, P.*, and Niv, M. Y.* (2020) Rational design of agonists for the bitter taste receptor TAS2R14: from modeling to bench and back. Cell. Mol. Life Sci., 77, 531-542.
10. Behrens, M.*, Di Pizio, A., Redel, U., Meyerhof, W.*, and Korsching, S. I.* (2021) At the root of T2R gene evolution: Recognition profiles of coelacanth and zebrafish bitter receptors. Genome Biol. Evol., 13: evaa264