The Monell Mouse Taste Phenotyping Project (MMTPP) is an NIH-sponsored initiative to develop efficient methods to measure the acceptance and liking of taste solutions by mice. The recent impetus to understand the genetic basis of taste perception has provided several challenges for the measurement of taste preferences. First, most previous work has used rats but most genetic studies involve mice, which drink less than do rats. This is a challenge because it is difficult to measure small volumes accurately, the range of intakes is smaller, and the errors due to spillage and evaporation are relatively greater. Second, many more animals must be tested than for previous research. For example, several hundred mice are required to identify most quantitative trait loci (QTLs) and it is likely that several thousand mice will be required to identify taste-related mutations. Third, genetic studies require highly reliable results: Whereas interpretation of most previous research has been based on differences between groups of animals, the results of a single mouse in genetic studies can be crucial. Inaccurate phenotyping can lead to incorrect localization of QTLs or a great deal of wasted effort trying to breed, genotype and phenotype the offspring of mice that do not have a genetic anomaly. A major portion of this project is to develop test methods to maximize the sensitivity of taste tests involving mice.
In addition, the MMTPP will provide normative taste solution intake data on many strains of mice. Such data will provide a valuable resource for choosing inbred strains for genetic studies.
This work was initially supported by a NIH grant, AA-12715, which has the catchy title “Efficient methods to detect taste abnormalities in mice”. The abstract can be found here and a complete copy of the proposal in Word format is available here.
An illustrated story about the project entitled “Nice Mice” is available in pdf format.