Electrophysiological and behavioral studies on the taste of umami substances in the rat

Takashi Yamamoto, Ryuji Matsuo, Yoshiyuki Fujimoto, Isao Fukunaga, Akiko Miyasaka, Toshiaki Imoto

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107 Citations (Scopus)


Electrophysiological and behavioral experiments were performed to reveal taste properties of "umami" substances such as monosodium glutamate (MSG) and disodium inosine monophosphate (IMP) in rats. To eliminate the taste effects of Na ions contained in these umami substances, we dissolved them in 0.01 mM amiloride, which is known to block sodium responses. In the electrophysiological study, taste responses of the whole chorda tympani nerve were recorded. The magnitude of responses to MSG (or IMP) at concentrations below 0.1 M (or 0.01 M) was less than 10% of that to 0.1 M NaCl. On the other hand, the mixtures of MSG and IMP showed responses 2-7 times larger than the arithmetric sum of the responses to each component of the mixtures. A new sweet taste inhibitor (Gymnema sylvestre extract) strongly suppressed neural responses to mixtures of MSG and IMP as well as sucrose, but only weakly or negligibly to individual solutions of these umami substances. In the behavioral study, the brief exposure two-bottle preference test and conditioned taste aversion paradigm were used. MSG was most preferred at 0.3 M (preference ratio = 57%), IMP, at 0.01 M (61%), and both were less preferred or rejected at higher concentrations. In contrast, mixtures of MSG and IMP were more preferred at a broad concentration range (e.g., 82% for 0.1 M MSG + 0.01 M IMP). Aversive conditioning to umami substances was generalized to sucrose, and vice versa, but not to 0.1 M NaCl, 0.01 M HCl, and 0.1 mM quinine hydrochloride. In conclusion, taste responses of umami substances without participation of Na ions can be evoked in rats at relatively high concentrations and by dissolving them in amiloride solution. The taste of umami substances is very similar to the taste of sucrose. A possibility is discussed that the individual solutions of MSG and IMP may be different from the mixtures of these substances in terms of transduction mechanism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)919-925
Number of pages7
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 1991


  • Behavior
  • Chorda tympani
  • Conditioned taste aversion
  • Electrophysiology
  • Preference
  • Taste
  • Umami

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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