Calcium salts are strong taste stimuli in vertebrate animals. However, the chemosensory transduction mechanisms for calcium are not known. In taste buds of Necturus maculosus (mud puppy), calcium evokes depolarizing receptor potentials by acting extracellularly on the apical ends of taste cells to block a resting potassium conductance. Therefore, divalent cations elicit receptor potentials in taste cells by modulating a potassium conductance rather than by permeating the cell membrane, the mechanism utilized by monovalent cations such as sodium and potassium ions.
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