Variation in Intake of Sweet and Bitter Solutions by Inbred Strains of Golden Hamsters

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Variation in intake of sweet and bitter solutions by inbred strains of laboratory mice has helped identify genes related to taste behaviors; but similar information is not available for golden hamsters (Mesocricetus auratus), a species used much in taste research. Thus, 6-hour, 1-bottle intake by water-replete hamsters of 7 inbred strains was measured for water and 2 concentrations of sucrose, maltose, d-phenylalanine (d-Phe), and sodium saccharin, which are sweet; and quinine·HCl, l-phenylalanine (l-Phe), caffeine, and sucrose octaacetate (SOA), which are bitter to humans. Difference scores (DIF), calculated as solution intake minus mean baseline water intake (mL) for each animal, were evaluated by analysis of variance. Compared to ACN, CN, APA, APG, and CBN, five strains with similar DIF for all compounds, GN, an ancestral strain of ACNT, and ACNT preferred sucrose, caffeine, and SOA more strongly; ACNT also preferred saccharin and maltose more strongly and rejected quinine more strongly. Narrow sense heritabilities for the 6 compounds for which strain differences were revealed ranged from 0.31 to 0.57. Genetic correlations indicated the strain variations in intake of sucrose, saccharin, SOA, and caffeine were coupled; a statistical association with several possible interpretations. Intakes of the two amino acids, preferred d-Phe and aversive l-Phe, did not reveal strain differences, and heritability ranged from 0.13 to 0.23 for the two optical isomers. Thus, although, compared to mice, genetic variation in laboratory hamsters may be small, genetic differences that influence taste behaviors in existing strains may help identify relevant genes.

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