The voltage-dependent currents of isolated Necturus lingual cells were studied using the whole-cell configuration of the patch-clamp technique. Nongustatory surface epithelial cells had only passive membrane properties. Small, spherical cells resembling basal cells responded to depolarizing voltage steps with predominantly outward K+ currents. Taste receptor cells generated both outward and inward currents in response to depolarizing voltage steps. Outward K+ currents activated at ~0 mV and increased almost linearly with increasing depolarization. The K+ current did not inactivate and was partially Ca++ dependent. One inward current activated at -40 mV, reached a peak at -20 mV, and rapidly inactivated. This transient inward current was blocked by tetrodotoxin (TTX), which indicates that it is an Na+ current. The other inward current inactivated at 0 mV, peaked at 30 mV, and slowly inactivated. This more sustained inward current had the kinetic and pharmacological properties of a slow Ca++ current. In addition, most taste cells had inwardly rectifying K+ currents. Sour taste stimuli (weak acids) decreased outward K+ currents and slightly reduced inward currents; bitter taste stimuli (quinine) reduced inward currents to a greater extent than outward currents. It is concluded that sour and bitter taste stimuli produce depolarizing receptor potentials, at least in part, by reducing the voltage-dependent K+ conductance.
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