3D model (JSmol)
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|Except where noted otherwise, data are given for|
materials in their standard state
(at 25 °C, 100 kPa)
Infobox disclaimer and references
Phenylthiocarbamide, also known as PTC, or phenylthiourea, is an organic compound having the unusual property of either tasting very bitter, or being virtually tasteless, depending on the genetic makeup of the taster. The ability to taste PTC is a dominant genetic trait. The test to determine PTC sensitivity is one of the most common genetic tests on humans.
About 70% of people can taste PTC, varying from a low of 58% for Aboriginal people of Australia and New Guinea to 98% for Indigenous peoples of the Americas. One study has found that non-smokers and those not habituated to coffee or tea have a statistically higher percentage of tasting PTC than the general population. There is conflicting evidence whether a higher percentage of women taste PTC versus men.
The genetic taste phenomenon of PTC was discovered in 1931 when a DuPont chemist named Arthur Fox accidentally released a cloud of a fine crystalline PTC. A nearby colleague complained about the bitter taste, while Dr. Fox, who was closer and should have gotten a strong dose, tasted nothing. Fox then continued to test the taste buds of assorted family and friends, setting the groundwork for future genetic studies. The genetic correlation was so strong that it was used in paternity tests before the advent of DNA matching.
Role in taste
There is a large body of evidence linking the ability to taste thiourea compounds (PTC, 6-n-propylthiouracil) and dietary habits. See supertaster for more information. Likewise, heavy cigarette smokers are more likely to have high PTC and PROP thresholds (e.g. are relatively insensitive), suggesting taste function may play a protective role against smoking.
- Fischer, R., Griffin, F. and Kaplan, A. R. (1963). "Taste Thresholds, Cigarette Smoking, and Food Dislikes". Medicina experimentalis. International journal of experimental medicine. 9: 151–67. PMID 14083335.
- Kaplan, A. R., Glanville, E. V. and Fischer, R. (1964). "Taste Thresholds for Bitterness and Cigarette Smoking". Nature. 202: 1366. PMID 14210998.
- L. Kameswaran, S. Gopalakrishnan, M. Sukumar, (1974). Phenylthiocarbamide and Naringin Taste Threshold in South Indian Medical Students, Ind. J. Pharmac., 6 (3). 134-140.
- Dennis Drayna's home page. Drayna has done extensive studies of PTC in various populations
- Population Study and Applications Using PTC Paper
- Classroom activity description using PTC paper
- A report on the discovery of PTC
- Information on PTC in the Population and the effects of PTC on humans
- Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man (OMIM) 171200 Thiourea tasting