Feinstein Institute Researcher Discovers New Protein Regulator of Taste

MANHASSET, NY – In collaboration with other research institutions, a Feinstein Institute for Medical Research investigator discovered a new protein that controls the sense of taste. The findings are published in the March issue of Nature.

In a search for new proteins involved in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, Philippe Marambaud, PhD, an investigator in the Litwin-Zucker Research Center for the Study of Alzheimer’s Disease at the Feinstein Institute, discovered the protein calcium homeostasis modulator 1 (CALHM1) in 2008. CALHM1 represents a new family of pore-forming membrane proteins involved in the control of the levels of amyloid-beta peptide, a main trigger for Alzheimer’s disease.

After additional studies in a mouse that did not have the CALHM1 gene, Dr. Marambaud and his lab found that the mouse had severely impaired perceptions of sweet, bitter and umami (a savory taste that is abundant in fish, shellfish, cured meats, mushrooms, and vegetables) tastes. This indicated that CALHM1 is of paramount importance for the integrity of the sense of taste.

“While studying the role of CALHM1 in the context of Alzheimer’s disease, we realized that this protein also plays a fundamental role in normal physiology, that is taste perception,” said Dr. Marambaud. “This finding is exciting because it unravels the mechanism of communication to the brain during taste perception. The connection between Alzheimer’s disease and taste is unclear at this point, but this study might motivate some investigation in this field.”

About the Litwin-Zucker Research Center for the Study of Alzheimer’s Disease

The Litwin-Zucker Research Center is part of the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research. Researchers who work in the lab have been studying Alzheimer’s disease in an effort of identifying new treatments and diagnostics for this devastating disorder of the brain.

About The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research

Headquartered in Manhasset, NY, The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research is home to international scientific leaders in many areas including Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, psychiatric disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, sepsis, human genetics, pulmonary hypertension, leukemia, neuroimmunology, and medicinal chemistry. The Feinstein Institute, part of the North Shore-LIJ Health System, ranks in the top 5th percentile of all National Institutes of Health grants awarded to research centers.

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