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2005.12.18

冷やすと甘味が薄まるわけ

Asahi.comより「「冷やすと甘くない」舌のたんぱく質特定 九大教授ら

甘みは、食べ物が冷たいと感じにくく、温めると強まる――。日常生活で経験するこの現象にかかわる、舌にあるたんぱく質を、九州大の二ノ宮裕三教授(口腔<こうくう>生理学)らとベルギー、米国の研究チームが突き止めた。英科学誌ネイチャーの最新号で発表した。
味覚は、嗅覚と同様に、舌に多く分布する味蕾の中の化学受容体に物質が結合することで検出されます。このようにして見分けられるものを基本味といいますが、それには甘味、酸味、塩味、苦味、うま味の5つがあります。もともとは甘味、酸味、塩味、苦味の4つが基本味とされてきましたが、最近はうま味も基本味として認められるようになってきました。元来日本語のうま味は英語でも「umami」として使用されています。

味蕾の化学受容体が味分子を検出すると、それを神経に伝える中継ぎ役のたんぱく質である「TRPM5」のチャネルが開きます。このTRPM5と温度との関係を研究チームは分析しました。

その結果、細胞レベルの実験では、温度を上げるとTRPM5の働きが強まりました。さらに普通のマウスと、TRPM5を作れないよう遺伝子操作したマウスの舌に、15−35度にした様々な種類の糖や甘味料、うまみ、酸味、塩味、苦みに関係する物質の溶液を垂らし、神経の反応を比較したところ、甘みに対し、普通のマウスは温度が高いほど反応も高まったのに対し、TRPM5のないマウスにはほとんど変化がなかったとのことです。

甘み以外では、温度による変化はありませんでした。

二ノ宮教授は「細胞の同じ部分が味と温度の両方にかかわっていたのは意外だ。甘みも温度も体内のエネルギーと密接なことが関係しているのでは」と話している。
赤ワインが室温で飲まれるのもこれが理由のようです。

<参考>「味覚は脳のどこに伝わるか」・「味覚ロボット登場!」・「若い女性ほど味に敏感−若い女性が行列を作る店は美味しい?」・「ネコが甘味を感じない理由が分かった

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