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Dev Biol. 2002 Feb 1;242(1):31-43.

Development of anterior gustatory epithelia in the palate and tongue requires epidermal growth factor receptor.

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Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, University of Michigan, 3127 Natural Science Building, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-1048, USA.


We characterized the gustatory phenotypes of neonatal mice having null mutations for epidermal growth factor receptor (egfr(-/-)), brain-derived neurotrophic factor (bdnf(-/-)), or both. We counted the number and diameter of fungiform taste buds, the prevalence of poorly differentiated or missing taste cells, and the incidence of ectopic filiform-like spines, each as a function of postnatal age and anterior/posterior location. Egfr(-/-) mice and bdnf(-/-) mice had similar reductions in the total number of taste buds on the anterior portions of the tongue and palate. Nonetheless, there were significant differences in their gustatory phenotypes. EGFR deficiency selectively impaired the development of anterior gustatory epithelia in the mouth. Only bdnf(-/-) mice had numerous taste buds missing from the foliate, vallate, and posterior fungiform papillae. Only egfr(-/-) fungiform taste papillae had robust gustatory innervation, markedly reduced cytokeratin 8 expression in taste cells, and a high incidence of a filiform-like spine. Egfr/bdnf double-null mutant mice had a higher frequency of failed fungiform taste bud differentiation. In bdnf(-/-) mice taste cell development failed because of sparse gustatory innervation. In contrast, in young egfr(-/-) mice the abundance of axons innervating fungiform papillae and the normal numbers of geniculate ganglion neurons implicate gustatory epithelial defects rather than neural defects.

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