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J Anat. 2011 Aug;219(2):243-52. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7580.2011.01385.x. Epub 2011 May 17.

Glucose transporters are expressed in taste receptor cells.

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Department of Neurological, Neuropsychological, Morphological and Movement Sciences, Human Anatomy and Histology Section, School of Medicine, University of Verona, Verona, Italy.


In the intestine, changes of sugar concentration generated in the lumen during digestion induce adaptive responses of glucose transporters in the epithelium. A close matching between the intestinal expression of glucose transporters and the composition and amount of the diet has been provided by several experiments. Functional evidence has demonstrated that the regulation of glucose transporters into enterocytes is induced by the sensing of sugar of the enteroendocrine cells through activation of sweet taste receptors (T1R2 and T1R3) and their associated elements of G-protein-linked signaling pathways (e.g. α-gustducin, phospholipase C β type 2 and transient receptor potential channel M5), which are signaling molecules also involved in the perception of sweet substances in the taste receptor cells (TRCs) of the tongue. Considering this phenotypical similarity between the intestinal cells and TRCs, we evaluated whether the TRCs themselves possess proteins of the glucose transport mechanism. Therefore, we investigated the expression of the typical intestinal glucose transporters (i.e. GLUT2, GLUT5 and SGLT1) in rat circumvallate papillae, using immunohistochemistry, double-labeling immunofluorescence, immunoelectron microscopy and reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction analysis. The results showed that GLUT2, GLUT5 and SGLT1 are expressed in TRCs; their immunoreactivity was also observed in cells that displayed staining for α-gustducin and T1R3 receptor. The immunoelectron microscopic results confirmed that GLUT2, GLUT5 and SGLT1 were predominantly expressed in cells with ultrastructural characteristics of chemoreceptor cells. The presence of glucose transporters in TRCs adds a further link between chemosensory information and cellular responses to sweet stimuli that may have important roles in glucose homeostasis, contributing to a better understanding of the pathways implicated in glucose metabolism.

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