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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Mar 29;108(13):5431-6. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1100495108. Epub 2011 Mar 7.

Glucose transporters and ATP-gated K+ (KATP) metabolic sensors are present in type 1 taste receptor 3 (T1r3)-expressing taste cells.

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Monell Chemical Senses Center, Philadelphia, PA 19104-3308, USA.


Although the heteromeric combination of type 1 taste receptors 2 and 3 (T1r2 + T1r3) is well established as the major receptor for sugars and noncaloric sweeteners, there is also evidence of T1r-independent sweet taste in mice, particularly so for sugars. Before the molecular cloning of the T1rs, it had been proposed that sweet taste detection depended on (a) activation of sugar-gated cation channels and/or (b) sugar binding to G protein-coupled receptors to initiate second-messenger cascades. By either mechanism, sugars would elicit depolarization of sweet-responsive taste cells, which would transmit their signal to gustatory afferents. We examined the nature of T1r-independent sweet taste; our starting point was to determine if taste cells express glucose transporters (GLUTs) and metabolic sensors that serve as sugar sensors in other tissues. Using RT-PCR, quantitative PCR, in situ hybridization, and immunohistochemistry, we determined that several GLUTs (GLUT2, GLUT4, GLUT8, and GLUT9), a sodium-glucose cotransporter (SGLT1), and two components of the ATP-gated K(+) (K(ATP)) metabolic sensor [sulfonylurea receptor (SUR) 1 and potassium inwardly rectifying channel (Kir) 6.1] were expressed selectively in taste cells. Consistent with a role in sweet taste, GLUT4, SGLT1, and SUR1 were expressed preferentially in T1r3-positive taste cells. Electrophysiological recording determined that nearly 20% of the total outward current of mouse fungiform taste cells was composed of K(ATP) channels. Because the overwhelming majority of T1r3-expressing taste cells also express SUR1, and vice versa, it is likely that K(ATP) channels constitute a major portion of K(+) channels in the T1r3 subset of taste cells. Taste cell-expressed glucose sensors and K(ATP) may serve as mediators of the T1r-independent sweet taste of sugars.

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