Intraoral Microbial Metabolism and Association with Host Taste Perception

A Gardner, P W So, G H Carpenter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Metabolomics has been identified as a means of functionally assessing the net biological activity of a particular microbial community. Considering the oral microbiome, such an approach remains largely underused. While the current knowledge of the oral microbiome is constantly expanding, there are several deficits in knowledge particularly relating to their interactions with their host. This work uses nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy to investigate metabolic differences between oral microbial metabolism of endogenous (i.e., salivary protein) and exogenous (i.e., dietary carbohydrates) substrates. It also investigated whether microbial generation of different metabolites may be associated with host taste perception. This work found that in the absence of exogenous substrate, oral bacteria readily catabolize salivary protein and generate metabolic profiles similar to those seen in vivo. Important metabolites such as acetate, butyrate, and propionate are generated at relatively high concentrations. Higher concentrations of metabolites were generated by tongue biofilm compared to planktonic salivary bacteria. Thus, as has been postulated, metabolite production in proximity to taste receptors could reach relatively high concentrations. In the presence of 0.25 M exogenous sucrose, increased catabolism was observed with increased concentrations of a range of metabolites relating to glycolysis (lactate, pyruvate, succinate). Additional pyruvate-derived molecules such as acetoin and alanine were also increased. Furthermore, there was evidence that individual taste sensitivity to sucrose was related to differences in the metabolic fate of sucrose in the mouth. High-sensitivity perceivers appeared more inclined toward continual citric acid cycle activity postsucrose, whereas low-sensitivity perceivers had a more efficient conversion of pyruvate to lactate. This work collectively indicates that the oral microbiome exists in a complex balance with the host, with fluctuating metabolic activity depending on nutrient availability. There is preliminary evidence of an association between host behavior (sweet taste perception) and oral catabolism of sugar.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)739-745
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of dental research
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020


  • Humans
  • Microbiota
  • Mouth
  • Taste
  • Taste Perception


Dive into the research topics of 'Intraoral Microbial Metabolism and Association with Host Taste Perception'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this