Cell and Tissue Research

, Volume 337, Issue 3, pp 349–359 | Cite as

Gustatory papillae and taste bud development and maintenance in the absence of TrkB ligands BDNF and NT-4

  • Akira Ito
  • Christopher A. NosratEmail author
Regular Article


Taste buds and the peripheral nerves innervating them are two important components of the peripheral gustatory system. They require appropriate connections for the taste system to function. Neurotrophic factors play crucial roles in the innervation of peripheral sensory organs and tissues. Both brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) null-mutated and neurotrophin-4 (NT-4) null-mutated mice exhibit peripheral gustatory deficits. BDNF and NT-4 bind to a common high affinity tyrosine kinase receptor, TrkB (NTRK-2), and a common p75 neurotrophin receptor (NGFR). We are currently using a transgenic mouse model to study peripheral taste system development and innervation in the absence of both TrkB ligands. We show that taste cell progenitors express taste cell markers during early stages of taste bud development in both BDNF−/−xNT-4−/− and wild-type mice. At early embryonic stages, taste bud progenitors express Troma-1, Shh, and Sox2 in all mice. At later stages, lack of innervation becomes a prominent feature in BDNF−/−xNT-4−/− mice leading to a decreasing number of fungiform papillae and morphologically degenerating taste cells. A total loss of vallate taste cells also occurs in postnatal transgenic mice. Our data indicate an initial independence but a later permissive and essential role for innervation in taste bud development and maintenance.


Neurotrophin Brain-derived neurotrophic factor Development Gustation Taste buds Innervation Mouse (BDNF−/−xNT-4−/−



We thank Waldemar De Reijk and Nancy Pecora for SEM, Michael Whitt for use of confocal microscope, Hirohito Miura for technical advice, Satoshi Wakisaka for helpful discussions, and Michelle Sims for technical assistance.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Restorative Dentistry, College of Dentistry, and Center for Cancer ResearchUniversity of Tennessee Health Science CenterMemphisUSA

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