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Brain Behav Evol. 2010;75(4):241-50. doi: 10.1159/000315151. Epub 2010 Jul 24.

The gustatory system of lampreys.

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  • 1Department of Cell Biology and Ecology, CIBUS, Faculty of Biology, University of Santiago de Compostela, Santiago de Compostela, Spain.


The present is a review of the gustatory system of lampreys, which are representative of the earliest vertebrates. They are the oldest extant vertebrates that possess taste buds. Because of the phylogenetic position of lampreys, the study of their gustatory system will provide important information to help understand the early evolution of this system in vertebrates. The taste buds of larval lampreys, which are papillae located on the first six pairs of gill arches facing the water current, respond to classical taste substances. They consist of two types of tall differentiated cells, serotonergic biciliated taste receptors ('light' cells) and microvillous sustentacular cells ('dark cells'). The taste buds also contain basal proliferative cells. Afferent gustatory fibers of the glossopharyngeal and vagal nerves innervate the taste buds of lampreys and contact the basal surface of the biciliated cells without entering the bud. Central processes of the glossopharyngeal and vagal cranial nerves terminate in a caudal rhombencephalic region that may correspond to the nucleus of the solitary tract of gnathostomes. To date, most studies in lampreys have focused on characterizing taste buds; future research should focus on the central processing of the gustatory information. Here we will review the current knowledge about the gustatory system of lampreys to provide a basis for establishing the direction of further studies of this chemosensory system.

Copyright 2010 S. Karger AG, Basel.

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