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Dev Biol. 2003 Feb 1;254(1):1-18.

Cyclopamine and jervine in embryonic rat tongue cultures demonstrate a role for Shh signaling in taste papilla development and patterning: fungiform papillae double in number and form in novel locations in dorsal lingual epithelium.

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Department of Biologic and Materials Sciences, School of Dentistry, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA.


From time of embryonic emergence, the gustatory papilla types on the mammalian tongue have stereotypic anterior and posterior tongue locations. Furthermore, on anterior tongue, the fungiform papillae are patterned in rows. Among the many molecules that have potential roles in regulating papilla location and pattern, Sonic hedgehog (Shh) has been localized within early tongue and developing papillae. We used an embryonic, tongue organ culture system that retains temporal, spatial, and molecular characteristics of in vivo taste papilla morphogenesis and patterning to study the role of Shh in taste papilla development. Tongues from gestational day 14 rat embryos, when papillae are just beginning to emerge on dorsal tongue, were maintained in organ culture for 2 days. The steroidal alkaloids, cyclopamine and jervine, that specifically disrupt the Shh signaling pathway, or a Shh-blocking antibody were added to the standard culture medium. Controls included tongues cultured in the standard medium alone, and with addition of solanidine, an alkaloid that resembles cyclopamine structurally but that does not disrupt Shh signaling. In cultures with cyclopamine, jervine, or blocking antibody, fungiform papilla numbers doubled on the dorsal tongue with a distribution that essentially eliminated inter-papilla regions, compared with tongues in standard medium or solanidine. In addition, fungiform papillae developed on posterior oral tongue, just in front of and beside the single circumvallate papilla, regions where fungiform papillae do not typically develop. The Shh protein was in all fungiform papillae in embryonic tongues, and tongue cultures with standard medium or cyclopamine, and was conspicuously localized in the basement membrane region of the papillae. Ptc protein had a similar distribution to Shh, although the immunoproduct was more diffuse. Fungiform papillae did not develop on pharyngeal or ventral tongue in cyclopamine and jervine cultures, or in the tongue midline furrow, nor was development of the single circumvallate papilla altered. The results demonstrate a prominent role for Shh in fungiform papilla induction and patterning and indicate differences in morphogenetic control of fungiform and circumvallate papilla development and numbers. Furthermore, a previously unknown, broad competence of dorsal lingual epithelium to form fungiform papillae on both anterior and posterior oral tongue is revealed.

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