Nav: Home

Tree shrew tolerance for spicy foods unlocked by researchers

July 13, 2018

Spicy foods elicit a pungent or hot and painful sensation that repels most mammals. However, the tree shrew (Tupaia belangeri chinensis), a species closely related to primates, seems to violate this rule of thumb.

Researchers accidentally observed tree shrews directly and actively consuming chili peppers, despite the deep geographic isolation between the animal and the food.

To understand this tolerance for spicy food, a research group led by Prof. LAI Ren from the Kunming Institute of Zoology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences along with researchers from Zhejiang University performed genomic and functional analyses on the tree shrew and its TRPV1.

The research revealed that a single point mutation in the tree shrew's transient receptor potential vanilloid type-1 (TRPV1, a polymodal nociceptor) ion channel (tsV1) lowers its sensitivity to capsaicinoids, thus enabling tree shrews' unique feeding behavior regarding pungent plants.

The experimental evidence suggests that strong selection for this residue in tsV1 might be driven by Piper boehmeriaefolium, a spicy plant that geographically overlaps with the tree shrew and produces Cap2, a capsaicin analog, in abundance.

Therefore, researchers think that feeding adaptation to P. boehmeriaefolium is the most likely explanation for the fixation of this mutation by positive selection, thus allowing the tree shrew's diet to expand.

This study broadens understanding of the evolutionary and molecular mechanisms of pungency tolerance behavior.
-end-
This work was supported by funding from the National Science Foundation of China, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Yunnan Province.

Chinese Academy of Sciences Headquarters

Related Food Articles:

Food or fraud?
Is the food on the shelf really that what is written on the label?
To ensure constant food supply edible dormice rather give up their favorite food
Edible dormice feed preferably on high-energy seeds for reproduction and putting on fat reserves.
Money, not access, key to resident food choices in 'food deserts'
A new study finds that, while access to healthy foods is a significant challenge, the biggest variable limiting diet choices in so-called 'food deserts' is limited financial resources.
Food on Mars, food on Earth: NASA taps USU scientists for space quest
To survive on Mars, explorers will have to be self-sufficient.
Fast food packaging contains potentially harmful chemicals that can leach into food
A comprehensive analysis of fast food packaging in the US shows that many restaurants use food packaging containing highly fluorinated chemicals, or PFASs.
New categorization of food scares will prevent food chain being compromised
Researchers from the University of Surrey have developed a new comprehensive categorization of food scares, a new study in the British Food Journal reports.
Nutrition program improves food stamp family's food security
Food stamp participants who participated in a supplemental nutrition education program were able to improve their food security by 25 percent, according to a study by Purdue University.
Food is hard to forget
A SISSA research study published in a special issue of Brain and Cognition analyzes the lexical-semantic deficits of the food category in patients suffering from neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's.
Confusing food labels place consumers with food allergy at risk
Consumers with food allergies often misunderstand food labels
New food-ordering formula could lead to less food waste in buffet-style restaurants
Although food waste occurs in all stages of food production, some of the largest losses occur at all-you-care-to-eat, buffet-style facilities.

Related Food Reading:

Food: What the Heck Should I Eat?
by Mark Hyman M.D. (Author)

Genius Foods: Become Smarter, Happier, and More Productive While Protecting Your Brain for Life
by Max Lugavere (Author), Paul Grewal M.D. (Author)

It Starts With Food: Discover the Whole30 and Change Your Life in Unexpected Ways
by Dallas Hartwig (Author), Melissa Hartwig (Author)

Food for You
by Shayna Telesmanic (Author), Kavel Rafferty (Illustrator)

The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science
by J. Kenji López-Alt (Author)

Food & Drink Infographics: A Visual Guide to Culinary Pleasures
by Simone Klabin (Author), Julius Wiedemann (Editor)

Unicorn Food: Natural Recipes for Edible Rainbows
by Sandra Mahut (Author)

Medical Medium Life-Changing Foods: Save Yourself and the Ones You Love with the Hidden Healing Powers of Fruits & Vegetables
by Anthony William (Author)

On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen
by Harold McGee (Author)

Food for Life: Delicious & Healthy Comfort Food from My Table to Yours!
by Laila Ali (Author)

Best Science Podcasts 2018

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2018. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Why We Hate
From bullying to hate crimes, cruelty is all around us. So what makes us hate? And is it learned or innate? This hour, TED speakers explore the causes and consequences of hate — and how we can fight it. Guests include reformed white nationalist Christian Picciolini, CNN commentator Sally Kohn, podcast host Dylan Marron, and writer Anand Giridharadas.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#482 Body Builders
This week we explore how science and technology can help us walk when we've lost our legs, see when we've gone blind, explore unfriendly environments, and maybe even make our bodies better, stronger, and faster than ever before. We speak to Adam Piore, author of the book "The Body Builders: Inside the Science of the Engineered Human", about the increasingly amazing ways bioengineering is being used to reverse engineer, rebuild, and augment human beings. And we speak with Ken Thomas, spacesuit engineer and author of the book "The Journey to Moonwalking: The People That Enabled Footprints on the Moon" about...