Development of voltage-dependent currents in taste receptor cells

Alan Mackay-Sim, Rona J. Delay, Stephen D. Roper, Sue C. Kinnamon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Taste buds, the specialized end organs of gustation, comprise a renewing sensory epithelium. Undifferentiated basal cells become taste receptor cells by elongating and extending processes apically toward the taste pore. Mature taste cells are electrically excitable and express voltage-dependent Na+ Ca2+, and K+ currents, whereas basal stem cells exhibit only slowly activating K+ currents. The question we have addressed in the present study is whether contact with the taste pore is required for expression of voltage- dependent inward currents in Necturus taste cells. Mature taste cells were distinguished from developing cells by labeling the apical surface of the cells with fluorescein-isothiocyanate-conjugated wheat germ agglutinin (FITC- WGA), while the tissue was still intact. Elongate cells lacking FITC-WGA staining were interpreted as developing taste cells that had not yet reached the taste pore. Giga-seal whole-cell recording revealed that most developing taste cells lacked inward currents. Although some developing cells expressed inward currents, they were much smaller than those of mature cells, and the activation kinetics of the K+ currents were slower than in mature cells. Electron microscopy confirmed the identity of labeled and unlabeled cells. All FITC-WGA-labeled cells exhibited the ultrastructural characteristics of mature taste receptor cells, whereas most unlabeled taste cells had a characteristic morphology that was markedly different from mature taste receptor cells or basal stem cells. These data suggest that contact with the taste pore is required for the development of inward currents in taste cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)278-288
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 5 1996
Externally publishedYes


  • amphibians
  • gustatory
  • ion channels
  • patch-clamp
  • Transduction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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