We used the patch clamp technique to record from taste cells in thin transverse slices of lingual epithelium from Necturus maculosus. In this preparation, the epithelial polarity and the cellular organization of the taste buds, as well as the interrelationships among cells within the taste bud, were preserved. Whole-cell recording, combined with cell identification using Lucifer yellow, allowed us to identify distinct subpopulations of taste cells based on their electrophysiological properties. Receptor cells could be divided in two groups: one group was characterized by the presence of voltage-gated Na+, K+, and Ca2+ currents; the other group was characterized by the presence of K+ currents only. Therefore, receptor cells in the first group would be expected to be capable of generating action potentials, whereas receptor cells in the second group would not. Basal taste cells could also be divided into two different groups. Some basal cells possessed voltage-gated Na+, K+, and Ca2+ conductances, whereas other basal cells only had K+ conductance. In addition to single taste cells, we were able to identify electrically coupled taste cells. We monitored cell-cell coupling by measuring membrane capacitance and by observing Lucifer yellow dye coupling. Electrical coupling in pairs of dye-coupled taste receptor cells was strong, as indicated by experiments with the uncoupling agent 1-octanol. Electrically coupled receptor cells possessed voltage-gated currents, including Na+ and K+ currents. The electrophysiological differentiation among taste cells presumably is related to functional diversifications, such as different chemosensitivities.
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