Gustatory responses in primates to the sweetener aspartame and their phylogenetic implications

Dieter Glaser, Henk Van Der Wel, Jan N. Brouwer, Grant E. Dubois, Göran Hellekant

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Two-bottle preference tests have been applied to 70 (sub-) species of the order of Primates and, for comparison, to the tree shrew (Tupaia belangeri) to determine their responses to aspartame (APM), the first known sweet-tasting dipeptide which has to man a sweetness potency of about 200 times that of sucrose. It was found that only the Cercopithecidae, the Hylobatidae and the Pongidae respond like man to this dipeptide and prefer it to water. The other primates tested to date, show no response to this sweetener. From a phylogenetic point of view, we note that APM shows species specificity similar to thaumatin. Thus, a clear dichotomy exists within the order of Primates with respect to both thaumatin and APM. The results here illustrate once more the gustatory diversity among primates and are a compelling argument for the existence of different sweet taste receptors or recognition sites in primate species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)325-335
Number of pages11
JournalChemical Senses
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1992

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank Director Dr P.Weilenmann, Dr C.R.Schmidt, and the head keepers K.Rathfelder and P.Oberhansli (Zoological Garden Zurich/CH); Director Dr R.Faust, K.Muller, Dipl. Biol., and the head keeper F.Stadtmuller (Zoological Garden Frankfurt/D); Director J.-M.Lernould and the head keepers J.-P.Weynacht and G.Metzger (Pare Zoologique et Botanique Mulhouse/F); Dr W.Angst (Affenberg Salem/D); Mr W.R.Spira (Zoological Station Eichberg/CH); Drs R.Pfister and J.Jaeckel (Ciba-Geigy AG, Basel/CH), Mrs Monika Huber, Med. Vet., (F.Hoffmann-La Roche AG, Basel/CH) for their support and assistance in carrying out the experiments. Thanks are also due to Director J.J.C.Mallinson from The Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust for making available experimental animals (Callimico goeldii). This work was supported further by G.D.Searle & Co., Skokie/USA, the Mettler-Toledo AG, Nanikon-Uster/CH and the A.H.Schultz-Foundation, Zurich/CH.


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