Bitterness is one of the five basictastes, and sensitivity to bitterness is important in that it enables animals to avoid harmful and toxic substances. In humans, taste sensitivity decreases with age, although the extent of loss varies depending on the taste quality. In chickens (Gallus gallus domesticus), baby chicks have been found to be more sensitive to salt and sour taste qualities than adults. In this study, therefore, we investigated the growth-associated changes in bitter taste sensitivity in chicks. We examined the behavioral perceptions toward the bitter compounds chloramphenicol and andrographolide in chicks at three different growth stages. Then, we measured the relative expression of the functional bitter taste receptors in the chick palate. In behavioral drinking tests, the 0-1-week-old chicks consumed a significantly lower amount of bitter solutions than water, whereas the 8-9-week-old chicks showed lower avoidance of the bitter solutions than the 0-1-week-old and 4-5-week-old chicks. Real-time PCR assay showed that the 0-1-week-old chicks had significantly higher expression of one of the functional bitter taste receptors in the palate than that in the older chicks. These results suggest that baby chicks are more sensitive to bitterness than older chicks. These findings may be useful in the production of new feedstuff for chicks according to their growth stages.
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