Teaching Highlights: Wolfgang Meyerhof


Who:Professor Wolfgang Meyerhof 
Title:Impact of Taste on Diet
and mammals use their sense of taste to sample information about the
chemical properties of their food. They distinguish five basic taste
qualities: sweet, umami, bitter, sour and salty, with each quality
having a separate physiological role. Perception initiates on the
tongue and other parts of the oral cavity through the interaction of
taste compounds with specialized receptor cells that are assembled into
morphologically distinct structures. The receptor cells are
specifically excited by stimuli of only one taste quality for which
they use definite receptor proteins and signaling molecules. Thus,
taste receptors represent the devices that translate chemical
structures into sensations and, through their biochemical properties,
determine sensory sensitivities. Taste receptors exist as variants
creating different tongues in different people and accounting for
perceptual diversity in the human population. Excitation of taste
receptor cells elicits nerve impulses that are conveyed in discrete
steps to the cerebral cortex, where the activities of nerve cells
represent information about the chemical content of the oral cavity.
This information is integrated with other sensory information, such as
sight and smell of food in the context of nutrition. Metabolic
consequences of ingested food form taste memory traces that determine
future handling of known and novel foods.
Bio: Wolfgang
Meyerhof studied biochemistry in Hannover and Berlin, Germany. He
reached his PhD in 1984 at the Free University of Berlin with research
in developmental biology. His postdoctoral training from 1984 to 1986
at Berlin and Bern, Switzerland, in molecular biology was based on the
analysis of globin gene functions in the clawed frog X. laevis. As
research associate from 1986 to 1994, University Hospital Hamburg,
Wolfgang Meyerhof cloned and analyzed the structure, function and
regulation of various neuropeptide hormone receptors. Since 1994 he is
a university professor for molecular genetics at the University of
Potsdam and Head of the Department of Molecular Genetics at the German
Institute of Human Nutrition Potsdam-Rehbruecke. His current research
interest is molecular biology of taste. In 2000, he won the
German-French Gay-Lussac/Humboldt prize.
When: 11.15am, Friday November 3, 2006
Where: UNISG Pollenzo campus
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