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Dev Biol. 2013 Oct 1;382(1):82-97. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2013.07.022. Epub 2013 Aug 2.

Multiple Shh signaling centers participate in fungiform papilla and taste bud formation and maintenance.

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


The adult fungiform taste papilla is a complex of specialized cell types residing in the stratified squamous tongue epithelium. This unique sensory organ includes taste buds, papilla epithelium and lateral walls that extend into underlying connective tissue to surround a core of lamina propria cells. Fungiform papillae must contain long-lived, sustaining or stem cells and short-lived, maintaining or transit amplifying cells that support the papilla and specialized taste buds. Shh signaling has established roles in supporting fungiform induction, development and patterning. However, for a full understanding of how Shh transduced signals act in tongue, papilla and taste bud formation and maintenance, it is necessary to know where and when the Shh ligand and pathway components are positioned. We used immunostaining, in situ hybridization and mouse reporter strains for Shh, Ptch1, Gli1 and Gli2-expression and proliferation markers to identify cells that participate in hedgehog signaling. Whereas there is a progressive restriction in location of Shh ligand-expressing cells, from placode and apical papilla cells to taste bud cells only, a surrounding population of Ptch1 and Gli1 responding cells is maintained in signaling centers throughout papilla and taste bud development and differentiation. The Shh signaling targets are in regions of active cell proliferation. Using genetic-inducible lineage tracing for Gli1-expression, we found that Shh-responding cells contribute not only to maintenance of filiform and fungiform papillae, but also to taste buds. A requirement for normal Shh signaling in fungiform papilla, taste bud and filiform papilla maintenance was shown by Gli2 constitutive activation. We identified proliferation niches where Shh signaling is active and suggest that epithelial and mesenchymal compartments harbor potential stem and/or progenitor cell zones. In all, we report a set of hedgehog signaling centers that regulate development and maintenance of taste organs, the fungiform papilla and taste bud, and surrounding lingual cells. Shh signaling has roles in forming and maintaining fungiform papillae and taste buds, most likely via stage-specific autocrine and/or paracrine mechanisms, and by engaging epithelial/mesenchymal interactions.


Fungiform papilla; Gli1; Gli2; Papilla placode; Paracrine signaling; Ptch; Stem cells; Taste cell progenitors

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