Distribution of ion channels on taste cells and its relationship to chemosensory transduction

S. D. Roper, D. W. McBride

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


The presence and regional localization of voltagegated ion channels on taste cells in Necturus maculosus were studied. Lingual epithelium was dissected from the animal and placed in a modified Ussing chamber such that individual taste cells could be impaled with intracellular microelectrodes and the chemical environment of the apical and basolateral membranes of cells could be strictly controlled. That is, solutions bathing the the mucosal and serosal surfaces of the epithelium could be exchanged independently and the effects of pharmacological agents could be tested selectively on the apical or basolateral membranes of taste cells. In the presence of amphibian physiological saline, action potentials were elicited by passing brief depolarizing current pulses through the recording electrode. Action potentials provided a convenient assay of voltage-gated ion channels. As in other excitable tissues, blocking current through Na+, K+, or Ca2+ channels had predictable and consistent effects on the shape and magnitude of the action potential. A series of experiments was conducted in which the shape and duration of regenerative action potentials were monitored when the ionic composition was altered and/or pharmacological blocking agents were added to the mucosal or to the serosal chamber. We have found the following: (1) voltage-gated K+ channels (delayed rectifier) are found predominately, if not exclusively, on the chemoreceptive apical membrane; (ii) voltage-gated Na+ and Ca2+ channels are found on the apical (chemoreceptive) and basolateral (synaptic) membrane; (iii) there is a K+ leak channel on the basolateral membrane which appears to vary seasonally in its sensitivity to TEA. The nonuniform distribution of voltage-gated K+ channels and their predominance on the apical membrane may be important in taste transduction: alterations in apical K+ conductance may underlie receptor potentials ellicted by rapid stimuli.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)29-39
Number of pages11
JournalThe Journal of Membrane Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1989
Externally publishedYes


  • chemoreception
  • ion channels
  • lingual epithelium
  • Necturus
  • sensory transduction
  • taste

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Cell Biology
  • Biophysics


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