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J Neurophysiol. 2000 Sep;84(3):1404-13.

Biophysical properties and responses to neurotransmitters of petrosal and geniculate ganglion neurons innervating the tongue.

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  • 1Department of Biologic and Materials Sciences, School of Dentistry, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-1078, USA.


The properties of afferent sensory neurons supplying taste receptors on the tongue were examined in vitro. Neurons in the geniculate (GG) and petrosal ganglia (PG) supplying the tongue were fluorescently labeled, acutely dissociated, and then analyzed using patch-clamp recording. Measurement of the dissociated neurons revealed that PG neurons were significantly larger than GG neurons. The active and passive membrane properties of these ganglion neurons were examined and compared with each other. There were significant differences between the properties of neurons in the PG and GG ganglia. The mean membrane time constant, spike threshold, action potential half-width, and action potential decay time of GG neurons was significantly less than those of PG neurons. Neurons in the PG had action potentials that had a fast rise and fall time (sharp action potentials) as well as action potentials with a deflection or hump on the falling phase (humped action potentials), whereas action potentials of GG neurons were all sharp. There were also significant differences in the response of PG and GG neurons to the application of acetylcholine (ACh), serotonin (5HT), substance P (SP), and GABA. Whereas PG neurons responded to ACh, 5HT, SP, and GABA, GG neurons only responded to SP and GABA. In addition, the properties of GG neurons were more homogeneous than those of the PG because all the GG neurons had sharp spikes and when responses to neurotransmitters occurred, either all or most of the neurons responded. These differences between neurons of the GG and PG may relate to the type of receptor innervated. PG ganglion neurons innervate a number of receptor types on the posterior tongue and have more heterogeneous properties, while GG neurons predominantly innervate taste buds and have more homogeneous properties.

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