Send to

Choose Destination
J Comp Neurol. 1991 Feb 8;304(2):172-86.

Early development and innervation of taste bud-bearing papillae on the rat tongue.

Author information

Department of Neurobiology and Physiology, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 60208-3520.


Early development of fungiform papillae on the fetal rat tongue was examined: (1) to determine whether morphogenesis of the taste bud-bearing fungiform papillae is induced by nerve and (2) to study the growth pattern of the two sensory nerves that innervate the papilla. The papillae first appear on the 15th day of gestation (E15; E1 is the day when the dam is sperm positive) in rows parallel to the midline sulcus. There appears to be a medial-lateral and an anterior-posterior gradient in the sequence of papilla differentiation. The epithelium of the early papilla resembles a multilayered placode topped by a flattened surface periderm. Close examination of the peridermal cells at the apex of the papillae reveals that the cells have fewer surface microvilli and their cytoplasm is more electron opaque than that of similar cells in interpapillary regions. The basal cells in the placode-like epithelium differ from those in interpapillary regions in that they are postmitotic and have more mitochondria. At later stages, the papilla acquires a mesenchymal core and nerves grow into the core. Results from organ culture experiments of tongue fragments taken from E14 fetuses indicate that morphogenesis of fungiform papillae is initiated in the absence of sensory nerve influence, but the nerve exerts a trophic effect on their maintenance. The two sensory nerves of the tongue, the chorda tympani and the lingual branch of the trigeminal nerve, enter the tongue mesenchyme at E14 and grow toward the epithelium. By E15 the chorda tympani branches have reached the developing fungiform papillae, by E16 many have entered the papilla, and by E17 they have penetrated the epithelium at the papilla apex. Their fibers are associated exclusively with the cells at the papilla apex, where the taste bud will develop. The trigeminal nerve ramifies beneath the surface of the entire epithelium by E15. Later, it, too, sends branches into fungiform papillae; these ascend along the trunk of the chorda tympani and at E17 terminate in the connective tissue core around the chorda tympani field. The results are compatible with the notion that the tongue epithelium exerts a general tropic effect on growing axons of both sensory nerves, and the epithelial cells of the fungiform papilla apex exert a similar effect to which only the chorda tympani axons are responsive.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Wiley
Loading ...
Support Center