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J Gen Physiol. Nov 1, 1990; 96(5): 1061–1084.
PMCID: PMC2229027

Membrane currents in taste cells of the rat fungiform papilla. Evidence for two types of Ca currents and inhibition of K currents by saccharin

Abstract

Taste buds were isolated from the fungiform papilla of the rat tongue and the receptor cells (TRCs) were patch clamped. Seals were obtained on the basolateral membrane of 281 TRCs, protruding from the intact taste buds or isolated by micro-dissection. In whole-cell configuration 72% of the cells had a TTX blockable transient Na inward current (mean peak amplitude 0.74 nA). All cells had outward K currents. Their activation was slower than for the Na current and a slow inactivation was also noticeable. The K currents were blocked by tetraethylammonium, Ba, and 4-aminopyridine, and were absent when the pipette contained Cs instead of K. With 100 mM Ba or 100 mM Ca in the bath, two types of inward current were observed. An L-type Ca current (ICaL) activated at - 20 mV had a mean peak amplitude of 440 pA and inactivated very slowly. At 3 mM Ca the activation threshold of ICaL was near -40 mV. A transient T-type current (ICaT) activated at -50 mV had an average peak amplitude of 53 pA and inactivated with a time constant of 36 ms at -30 mV. ICaL was blocked more efficiently by Cd and D600 than ICaT. ICaT was blocked by 0.2 mM Ni and half blocked by 200 microM amiloride. In whole-cell voltage clamp, Na-saccharin caused (in 34% of 55 cells tested) a decrease in outward K currents by 21%, which may be expected to depolarize the TRCs. Also, Na-saccharin caused some taste cells to fire action potentials (on-cell, 7 out of 24 cells; whole-cell, 2 out of 38 cells responding to saccharin) of amplitudes sufficient to activate ICaL. Thus the action potentials will cause Ca inflow, which may trigger release of transmitter.

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