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Development. 1997 Mar;124(5):949-57.

Taste buds develop autonomously from endoderm without induction by cephalic neural crest or paraxial mesoderm.

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Department of Neurosciences, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla 92093-0201, USA.


Although it had long been believed that embryonic taste buds in vertebrates were induced to differentiate by ingrowing nerve fibers, we and others have recently shown that embryonic taste buds can develop normally in the complete absence of innervation. This leads to the question of which tissues, if any, induce the formation of taste buds in oropharyngeal endoderm. We proposed that taste buds, like many specialized epithelial cells, might arise via an inductive interaction between the endodermal epithelial cells that line the oropharynx and the adjacent mesenchyme that is derived from both cephalic neural crest and paraxial mesoderm. Using complementary grafting and explant culture techniques, however, we have now found that well-differentiated taste buds will develop in tissue completely devoid of neural crest and paraxial mesoderm derivatives. When the presumptive oropharyngeal region was removed from salamander embryos prior to the onset of cephalic neural crest migration, taste buds developed in grafts and explants coincident with their appearance in intact control embryos. Similarly, explants from neurulae in which movement of paraxial mesoderm had not yet begun also developed taste buds after 9-12 days in vitro. We conclude that neither cranial neural crest nor paraxial mesoderm is responsible for the induction of embryonic taste buds. Surprisingly, the ability to develop taste buds late in embryonic development seems to be an intrinsic feature of the oropharyngeal endoderm that is determined by the completion of gastrulation.

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