ATP is a transmitter secreted from taste bud receptor (Type II) cells through ATP-permeable gap junction hemichannels most probably composed of pannexin 1. The elevation of intracellular Ca2+ and membrane depolarization are both believed to be involved in transmitter secretion from receptor cells, but their specific roles have not been fully elucidated. In the present study, we show that taste-evoked ATP secretion from mouse vallate receptor cells is evoked by the combination of intracellular Ca2+ release and membrane depolarization. Unexpectedly, ATP secretion is not blocked by tetrodotoxin, indicating that transmitter release from these cells still takes place in the absence of action potentials. Taste-evoked ATP secretion is absent in receptor cells isolated from TRPM5 knockout mice or in taste cells from wild type mice where current through TRPM5 channels has been eliminated. These findings suggest that membrane voltage initiated by TRPM5 channels is required for ATP secretion during taste reception. Nonetheless, even in the absence of TRPM5 channel activity, ATP release could be triggered by depolarizing cells with KCl. Collectively, the findings indicate that taste-evoked elevation of intracellular Ca2+ has a dual role: (1) Ca2+ opens TRPM5 channels to depolarize receptor cells and (2) Ca2+ plus membrane depolarization opens ATP-permeable gap junction hemichannels.
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