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J Neurosci. 2006 Aug 9;26(32):8243-53.

Discrete innervation of murine taste buds by peripheral taste neurons.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Department of Neurobiology, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California 92093-0604, USA.


The peripheral taste system likely maintains a specific relationship between ganglion cells that signal a particular taste quality and taste bud cells responsive to that quality. We have explored a measure of the receptoneural relationship in the mouse. By injecting single fungiform taste buds with lipophilic retrograde neuroanatomical markers, the number of labeled geniculate ganglion cells innervating single buds on the tongue were identified. We found that three to five ganglion cells innervate a single bud. Injecting neighboring buds with different color markers showed that the buds are primarily innervated by separate populations of geniculate cells (i.e., multiply labeled ganglion cells are rare). In other words, each taste bud is innervated by a population of neurons that only connects with that bud. Palate bud injections revealed a similar, relatively exclusive receptoneural relationship. Injecting buds in different regions of the tongue did not reveal a topographic representation of buds in the geniculate ganglion, despite a stereotyped patterned arrangement of fungiform buds as rows and columns on the tongue. However, ganglion cells innervating the tongue and palate were differentially concentrated in lateral and rostral regions of the ganglion, respectively. The principal finding that small groups of ganglion cells send sensory fibers that converge selectively on a single bud is a new-found measure of specific matching between the two principal cellular elements of the mouse peripheral taste system. Repetition of the experiments in the hamster showed a more divergent innervation of buds in this species. The results indicate that whatever taste quality is signaled by a murine geniculate ganglion neuron, that signal reflects the activity of cells in a single taste bud.

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