Profile Dr. habil. Maik Behrens

Head of Research Group Taste & Odor Systems Reception

Lise-Meitner-Str. 34
85354 Freising
Tel.: +49 8161 71-2987

E-Mail   ORCID   ResearcherID 

The human sense of taste is crucial for the assessment of the chemical composition of food, a major determinant of food choice and thus, is critical for a healthy nutrition. A plethora of sour, salty, sweet, umami and bitter compounds have to be accurately and simultaneously detected by dozens of specialized taste receptors in the oral cavity as well as in non-gustatory tissues to trigger appropriate taste behaviors and other physiological responses, creating an enormous level of complexity. To match tastants with taste receptors and with their gustatory and non-gustatory effects, we use cell biological, biochemical and molecular methods, which are also suitable to identify taste modulators, to characterize receptor binding pockets and to study tastant mixture effects. Our research has resulted in the deorphanization of numerous bitter taste receptors, the discovery of the first selective bitter taste receptor blockers, and allowed a detailed insight into the architectures of ligand binding pockets of broadly tuned bitter taste receptors. Our data on receptor-tastant profiles will promote the prediction of taste characteristics of complex food and the repurposing of tastants for health improvements.


  • Understanding the molecular basis of human taste perception
  • Structure-function analyses of taste receptors – can we predict taste modifiers de novo?
  • Physiological functions of extra-oral taste receptors – are tastants drugs?
  • Evolution of taste receptors – how did nutritional habits evolve?
  • Discovery of taste modifiers and mixture effects – how are complex food items perceived?
2018 – current Leibniz-Institute of Food Systems Biology at the TU Munich, Freising
Group leader Taste & Odor Systems Reception
Habilitation (2013) University of Potsdam, Potsdam
2000 – 2018 German Institute of Human Nutrition Potsdam-Rehbruecke, Nuthetal
Senior Scientist Dept. Molecular Genetics
1997 – 2000 University of Maryland, Baltimore, MD, USA
Postdoctoral fellow School of Medicine, Dept. of Anatomy and Neurobiology
Dr. rer. nat. (1997) University of Hamburg, Hamburg
1993 – 1996 University of Hamburg, Hamburg
Ph.D. student School of Medicine, Institute for Cell Biochemistry and Clinical Neurobiology
Diploma Biology (1993) University of Hamburg, Hamburg

1996 |Best Dissertation in Biology University of Hamburg, Hamburg

2011 - 2014 Program committee member AChemS
2009 - 2018 Editorial board member World Journal of Biological Chemistry
2011 - current Academic editor PLoS One
2014 - current Editorial board member Chemical Senses
2019 - current Specialist advisor HUGO Gene Nomenclature Committee
2002 – 2017 Lecture & Seminar “Cellular Signal Transduction”, University of Potsdam
2016 – 2017 Lecture “Functional Anatomy and Physiology of Inner Organs”, University of Potsdam
2017 – 2018 Lecture “Molecular Sensory Science”
2019 – current Lecture “Chemosensory Perception”, TU Munich
2019 – current Seminar “Recent Advances in Chemosensory Research”, TU Munich
2002 – 2014 Practical courses in Zoology, Molecular Genetics & Cellular Signal Transduction, University of Potsdam
2020 – current Internship “Chemosensory Perception”
2001 – current Supervision of 10 Ph.D. students, 1 Diploma student, 3 Master students, 7 Bachelor students, University of Potsdam & TU Munich

(See ORCID for complete list)

1. Behrens, M.*, Foerster, S., Staehler, F., Raguse, J.-D., and Meyerhof, W. (2007) Gustatory expression pattern of the human TAS2R bitter receptor gene family reveals a heterogenous population of bitter responsive taste receptor cells. J. Neurosci., 27, 12630-12640.

2. Meyerhof, W.*, Batram, C., Kuhn, C., Brockhoff, A., Chudoba, E., Bufe, B., Appendino, G., and Behrens, M. (2010) The molecular receptive ranges of human TAS2R bitter taste receptors. Chem. Senses, 35, 157-170.

3. Brockhoff, A., Behrens, M., Niv, M. Y., and Meyerhof, W.* (2010) Structural requirements of bitter taste receptor activation. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA., 107, 11110-11115.

4. Born, S., Levit, A., Niv, M. Y, Meyerhof, W., and Behrens, M.* (2013) The human bitter taste receptor TAS2R10 is tailored to accommodate numerous diverse ligands. J. Neurosci., 33, 201-213.

5. Behrens, M.*, Korsching, S. I., and Meyerhof, W. (2014) Tuning properties of avian and frog bitter taste receptors dynamically fit gene repertoire sizes. Mol. Biol. Evol., 31, 3216-3227.

6. Behrens, M.*, Blank, K., and Meyerhof, W. (2017) Blends of non-caloric sweeteners saccharin and cyclamate show reduced off-taste due to TAS2R bitter receptor inhibition. Cell Chem. Biol., 24, 1199-1204.

7. Prandi, S., Voigt, A., Meyerhof, W., and Behrens, M.* (2018) Expression profiling of Tas2r genes reveals a complex pattern along the mouse GI tract and the presence of Tas2r131 in a subset of intestinal Paneth cells. Cell. Mol. Life Sci., 75, 49-65.

8. Nowak, S., Di Pizio, A., Levit, A., Niv, M. Y., Meyerhof, W., and Behrens, M.* (2018) Reengineering the ligand sensitivity of the broadly tuned human bitter taste receptor TAS2R14. Biochim. Biophys. Acta, Gen. Subj., 1862, 2162-2173.

9. Di Pizio, A., Waterloo, L. A. W., Brox, R., Loeber, S., Weikert, D., Behrens, M.*, Gmeiner, P.*, and Niv, M. Y.* (2020) Rational design of agonists for the bitter taste receptor TAS2R14: from modeling to bench and back. Cell. Mol. Life Sci., 77, 531-542.

10. Behrens, M.*, Di Pizio, A., Redel, U., Meyerhof, W.*, and Korsching, S. I.* (2021) At the root of T2R gene evolution: Recognition profiles of coelacanth and zebrafish bitter receptors. Genome Biol. Evol., 13: evaa264

*=corresponding author