Characterization of the expression pattern of adrenergic receptors in rat taste buds

Y. Zhang, T. Kolli, R. Hivley, L. Jaber, F. I. Zhao, J. Yan, S. Herness

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Taste buds signal the presence of chemical stimuli in the oral cavity to the central nervous system using both early transduction mechanisms, which allow single cells to be depolarized via receptor-mediated signaling pathways, and late transduction mechanisms, which involve extensive cell-to-cell communication among the cells in the bud. The latter mechanisms, which involve a large number of neurotransmitters and neuropeptides, are less well understood. Among neurotransmitters, multiple lines of evidence suggest that norepinephrine plays a yet unknown role in the taste bud. This study investigated the expression pattern of adrenergic receptors in the rat posterior taste bud. Expression of α1A, α1B, α1D, α2A, α2B, α2C, β1, and the β2 adrenoceptor subtypes was observed in taste buds using RT-PCR and immunocytochemical techniques. Taste buds also expressed the biosynthetic enzyme for norepinephrine, dopamine β-hydroxylase (DβH), as well as the norepinephrine transporter. Further, expression of the epinephrine synthetic enzyme, phenylethanolamine N-methyltransferase (PNMT), was observed suggesting a possible role for this transmitter in the bud. Phenotyping adrenoceptor expression patterns with double labeling experiments to gustducin, synaptosomal-associated protein 25 (SNAP-25), and neural cell adhesion molecule (NCAM) suggests they are prominently expressed in subsets of cells known to express taste receptor molecules but segregated from cells known to have synapses with the afferent nerve fiber. Alpha and beta adrenoceptors co-express with one another in unique patterns as observed with immunocytochemistry and single cell reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). These data suggest that single cells express multiple adrenergic receptors and that adrenergic signaling may be particularly important in bitter, sweet, and umami taste qualities. In summary, adrenergic signaling in the taste bud occurs through complex pathways that include presynaptic and postsynaptic receptors and likely play modulatory roles in processing of gustatory information similar to other peripheral sensory systems such as the retina, cochlea, and olfactory bulb.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1421-1437
Number of pages17
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Adrenoceptors
  • Alpha-receptors
  • Beta-receptors
  • Epinephrine
  • Gustation
  • Norepinephrine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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