Regular Article

Cell and Tissue Research

, Volume 330, Issue 1, pp 17-28

First online:

Immuno-localization of vesicular acetylcholine transporter in mouse taste cells and adjacent nerve fibers: indication of acetylcholine release

  • Tatsuya OguraAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Sciences, University of Maryland Baltimore County Email author 
  • , Robert F. MargolskeeAffiliated withDepartment of Neuroscience, Mount Sinai School of Medicine
  • , Yvonne N. TalliniAffiliated withDepartment of Biomedical Sciences, Cornell University
  • , Bo ShuiAffiliated withDepartment of Biomedical Sciences, Cornell University
  • , Michael I. KotlikoffAffiliated withDepartment of Biomedical Sciences, Cornell University
  • , Weihong LinAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Sciences, University of Maryland Baltimore County

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Acetylcholine (ACh) is well established as a neurotransmitter and/or neuromodulator in various organs. Previously, it has been shown by Ogura (J Neurophysiol 87:2643–2649, 2002) that in both physiological and immunohistochemical studies the muscarinic acetylcholine (ACh) receptor is present in taste receptor cells. However, it has not been determined if ACh is released locally from taste receptor cells and/or surrounding nerve fibers. In this study we investigated the sites of ACh release in mouse taste tissue using the antisera against vesicular ACh transporter (VAChT), a key element of ACh-containing vesicles. Our data show that VAChT-immunoreactivity is present in many taste receptor cells, including cells expressing the transient receptor potential channel M5 (TRPM5). In taste cells, VAChT-immunoreactivity was colocalized with the immunoreactivity to choline-acetyltransferase (ChAT), which synthesizes ACh. Additionally, enhanced green fluorescent protein (eGFP) was detected in the taste cells of BAC-transgenic mice, in which eGFP was placed under the control of endogenous ChAT transcriptional regulatory elements (ChATBAC-eGFP mice). Furthermore, many ChAT-immunolabeled taste cells also reacted to an antibody against the vesicle-associated membrane protein synaptobrevin-2. These data suggest that ACh-containing vesicles are present in taste receptor cells and ACh release from taste cells may play a role in autocrine and/or paracrine cell-to-cell communication. In addition, certain nerve fibers surrounding or within taste buds were immunoreactive for the VAChT antibody. Some of these fibers were also immunolabeled with antibody against calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), a marker for trigeminal peptidergic fibers. Thus, functions of taste receptor cells could be modulated by trigeminal fibers via ACh release as well.


Neurotransmitter Neuromodulator Vesicle release Cholinergic Taste cell communication Taste modulation Peptidergic trigeminal nerve Mouse (C57Bl/6; TRPM5-GFP)