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Biophys J. 1976 Aug;16(8):869-81.

A model for the stimulation of taste receptor cells by salt.


A taste cell mucosal surface is regarded as a planar region containing bound anionic sites and openings to ionic channels. It is assumed that the bulk aqueous properties of the exterior phase are not continuous with the surface but terminate at a plane near the surface. The region between the (Stern) plane and the membrane is regarded as having a lower dielectric constant than bulk water. This fact admits the possibility of ion pair formation between fixed sites and mobile cations. Mobile ion pairs entering the region may also bind to a fixed anionic site. Thus, it is assumed that mobile cations and ion pairs are potential determining species at the surface. Binding cations neutralizes surface charges, whereas binding mobile ion pairs does not. This competition accounts for the observed anion effect on stimulation of tast receptors by sodium salts. The potential profile is constructed by superimposing the phase boundary potentials with an ionic diffusion potential across the membrane. The model accounts for the anion effect on receptor potential, pH effects, the reversal of polarity when cells are treated with FeCl3, and the so-called "water reponse," depolarization of the taste cell upon dilution of the stimulant solution below a critical lower limit. The proposed model does not require both bound cationic and anionic receptors, and further suggests that limited access to a Stern-like region continuous with membrane channels may generally serve to control transport of ions.

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