The quantitation of pungency is difficult to achieve using sensory tests because of persistence, accumulation, and desensitization to the perception of pungency. Transient receptor vanilloid 1 (TRPV1), which is a chemosensory receptor, plays a pivotal role in the perception of many pungent compounds, suggesting that the activity of this receptor might be useful as an index for pungency evaluation. Although Ca2+
-sensitive fluorescence dyes are commonly used for measuring human TRPV1 (hTRPV1) activity, their application is limited, as foods often contain fluorescent substances that interfere with the fluorescent signals. This study aims to design a new pungency evaluation system using hTRPV1. Instead of employing a fluorescent probe as the Ca2+
indicator, this assay system uses the luminescent protein aequorin. The luminescence assay successfully evaluated the hTRPV1 activity in foods without purification, even for those containing fluorescent substances. The hTRPV1 activity in food samples correlated strongly with the pungency intensity obtained by the human sensory test. This luminescence-based hTRPV1 assay system will be a powerful tool for objectively quantifying the pungency of spicy foods in both laboratory and industrial settings.
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