Taste buds are clusters of polarized sensory cells embedded in stratified oral epithelium. In adult mammals, taste buds turn over continuously and are replenished through the birth of new cells in the basal layer of the surrounding non-sensory epithelium. The half-life of cells in mammalian taste buds has been estimated as 8-12 days on average. Yet, earlier studies did not address whether the now well-defined functional taste bud cell types all exhibit the same lifetime. We employed a recently developed thymidine analog, 5-ethynil-2′-deoxyuridine (EdU) to re-evaluate the incorporation of newly born cells into circumvallate taste buds of adult mice. By combining EdU-labeling with immunostaining for selected markers, we tracked the differentiation and lifespan of the constituent cell types of taste buds. EdU was primarily incorporated into basal extragemmal cells, the principal source for replenishing taste bud cells. Undifferentiated EdU-labeled cells began migrating into circumvallate taste buds within 1 day of their birth. Type II (Receptor) taste cells began to differentiate from EdU-labeled precursors beginning 2 days after birth and then were eliminated with a half-life of 8 days. Type III (Presynaptic) taste cells began differentiating after a delay of 3 days after EdU-labeling, and they survived much longer, with a half-life of 22 days. We also scored taste bud cells that belong to neither Type II nor Type III, a heterogeneous group that includes mostly Type I cells, and also undifferentiated or immature cells. A non-linear decay fit described these cells as two sub-populations with half-lives of 8 and 24 days respectively. Our data suggest that many post-mitotic cells may remain quiescent within taste buds before differentiating into mature taste cells. A small number of slow-cycling cells may also exist within the perimeter of the taste bud. Based on their incidence, we hypothesize that these may be progenitors for Type III cells.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)