WP 1-5 Chemosensory geno- and phenotyping

Chemosensory geno- and phenotyping to clarify the development of food preferences and aversions in different age groups

We recently demonstrated that the almost infinite variability of food aromas is based on about 230 key food odorants, of which 3 to 40 compounds compose the combinatory olfactory code of a product. The perception, recognition, and evaluation of complex food aromas is based on the high resolution of our olfactory sense with about 400 olfactory receptor types. The central mechanism of recognition of food aromas is thus based not on the detection of single odorants, but rather on a synthetic process to create an olfactory percept based on food-specific receptor activity patterns. Food preferences and aversions change during the different phases of life. Moreover, individual differences in chemosensory receptor genotypes, such as single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), influence olfactory and taste sensations, and thus food choice and preferences.

How do attractive and aversive olfactory sensations differ on a molecular level? In the course of the project, the causes for food preferences and aversions will be studied. An important basis for this will be to establish food-specific, chemosensory receptor acitvity patterns from combinatorial odor codes. For the first time food-typical aroma recombinates will be used as molecular probes to clarify the interaction of the relevant key food odorants and their receptor, and to objectify the impact of receptor activation on the establishment of age-dependent food preferences. Attractiveness and/or aversiveness of the odors will be evaluated using sophisticated physiological response measurements in human subjects. Moreover, the influence of food aroma on an epigenetic modification of receptor gene loci in primary cells will be investigated.


In the course of the project the four enable age groups will be investigated for food preferences and aversions to describe relations between individual and age-dependent sensory phenotypes and corresponding genotypes.


  • Dunkel, A., M. Steinhaus, M. Kotthoff, B. Nowak, D. Krautwurst, P. Schieberle, and T. Hofmann, Genuine Geruchssignaturen der Natur - Perspektiven aus der Lebensmittelchemie für die Biotechnologie. Angewandte Chemie, 2014. 126(28): p. 7250-7271.
  • Dunkel, A., M. Steinhaus, M. Kotthoff, B. Nowak, D. Krautwurst, P. Schieberle, and T. Hofmann, Nature's chemical signatures in human olfaction: a foodborne perspective for future biotechnology. Angew Chem Int Ed Engl, 2014. 53(28): p. 7124-43.
  • Geithe, C., G. Andersen, A. Malki, and D. Krautwurst, A butter aroma recombinate activates human class-I odorant receptors. J Agric Food Chem, 2015.
  • Malki, A., J. Fiedler, K. Fricke, I. Ballweg, M.W. Pfaffl, and D. Krautwurst, Class I odorant receptors, TAS1R and TAS2R taste receptors, are markers for subpopulations of circulating leukocytes. J Leukoc Biol, 2015. 97(3): p. 533-45.

Coordinating Investigator

Prof. Dr. Thomas Hofmann

Technische Universität München
Lehrstuhl für Lebensmittelchemie und Molekulare Sensorik

Email: thomas.hofmann@tum.de


Jun.-Prof. Dr. Jessica Freiherr

Frauenhofer Institut für Verfahrenstechnik
und Verpackung IVV
Analytische Sensorik

Email: jessica.freiherr@ivv.fraunhofer.de