Several types of cells have been identified in vertebrate taste buds, including dark cells, light cells, intermediate cells, type III cells, and basal cells. The physiological roles of these cell types are not well understood, especially those of basal cells. In this paper we show that there are two types of basal cells in taste buds from Necturus maculosus. One type of basal cell is an undifferentiated cell, presumably a stem cell. By combining light microscopic immunocytochemistry with electron microscopy, we show that the other type of basal cell is positive for serotonin-like immunoreactivity and that these cells have ultrastructural features similar to those found in cutaneous Merkel cells. Based on these findings, and the fact that the Merkel-like taste cells have been shown to make synaptic contacts with adjacent taste cells and with innervating nerve fibers, we conclude that these Merkel-like basal taste cells are serotonergic interneurons.
ASJC Scopus subject areas