Assistant Professor of Public HealthHealth Sciences Research Institute
University of California, Merced
5200 North Lake Road
Merced, CA 95343
2013-present - Assistant Professor of Public Health (Health Sciences Research Institute), University of California at Merced
2006-2013 - Assistant Professor (Human Genetics), University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center
2005-2006 - Research Assistant Professor (Human Genetics), University of Utah
2002-2005 - Kirschstein Postdoctoral Fellow (Human Genetics), University of Utah
1998-2001 - Ph.D. (Anthropology), University of Utah
1992-1996 - M.S. (Biology), University of Utah
1988-1992 - B.A. (Biology), University of Colorado
Genetics of Taste Perception
Taste perception is controlled by taste receptor proteins, which respond to different substances by triggering sensation. Mutations in genes encoding these proteins cause variation in taste sensitivity. Research in my lab investigates patterns of mutation in taste receptor genes, the ways they affect perception, and their evolutionary origins.
A major focus in my research is on the relationship between taste receptor mutations and perception of specific chemicals, particularly bitter substances found in foods. This work has uncovered previously unknown correlations between mutations in bitter taste receptors (TAS2Rs) and perception of common substances, including compounds found in table vegetables and artificial sweeteners. It has also revealed that human populations differ substantially in which mutations they carry.
A second emphasis in my work is on the molecular evolution of taste perception. Taste perception plays a vital role in animal nutrition and health. By enabling the detection of nutrients and toxins, taste enables response: consumption or avoidance. The importance of this role to fitness suggests that taste perception and its underlying mechanisms are under intense pressures from natural selection. I investigate these pressures by analyzing genetic diversity in taste receptors, functional variation, and perception in humans, chimpanzees, and other primates.
A complete list of my publications, along with reprints, can be found here. Most of my publications are also listed in PubMed.
Wooding, S.P. 2011. Signatures of natural selection in a primate bitter taste receptor. Journal of Molecular Evolution 73:257-265. [REPRINT] Wooding, S., Bufe, B., Grassi, C., Howard, M.T., Stone, A.C., Vazquez, M., Dunn, D.M., Meyerhof, W., Weiss, R.B., Bamshad, M.J. 2006. Independent evolution of bitter-taste sensitivity in humans and chimpanzees. Nature 440:930-934. [REPRINT] Wooding, S., Kim, U.-k., Bamshad, M. J., Larsen, J., Jorde, L. B., Drayna, D. 2004. Natural selection and molecular evolution in PTC, a bitter taste receptor gene. American Journal of Human Genetics 74:637-646. [REPRINT] Wooding, S., Gunn, H., Ramos, P., Thalmann, S., Xing, C., Meyerhof, W. 2010. Genetics and bitter taste responses to goitrin, a plant toxin found in vegetables. Chemical Senses 35:685-692. [REPRINT] Bamshad, M., Wooding, S. 2003. Signatures of natural selection in the human genome. Nature Reviews Genetics 4:99-111. [REPRINT]