The ability to taste low concentrations of propylthiouracil (PROP) and related bitter compounds is heritable. The current analysis determines whether the distribution of PROP taste thresholds is consistent with an additive or a dominant mode of Mendelian transmission. To that end, the lowest concentration of PROP detectable was determined for 1015 subjects and models of bi- or tri-modal distributions of PROP taste thresholds were tested. The model with the greatest likelihood had three distributions and followed an additive model of PROP taste sensitivity if the variances associated with the distributions were assumed to be equal. However, if the taste thresholds were transformed to remove skewness, or if the variances were unequal, then three- or two-distribution models were equally likely. Resolution of the mode of inheritance for bitter taste perception awaits additional family studies and the characterization of the molecular basis of taste perception for these bitter compounds. Chem. Senses 20: 529-533, 1995.