Taste information is detected by taste cells and then transmitted to the brain through the taste nerve fibers. According to our previous data, there may be specific coding of taste quality between taste cells and nerve fibers. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying this coding specificity remain unclear. The purpose of this study was to identify candidate molecules that may regulate the specific coding. GeneChip analysis of mRNA isolated from the mice taste papillae and taste ganglia revealed that 14 members of the cadherin superfamily, which are important regulators of synapse formation and plasticity, were expressed in both tissues. Among them, protocadherin-20 (Pcdh20) was highly expressed in a subset of taste bud cells, and co-expressed with taste receptor type 1 member 3 (T1R3, a marker of sweet- or umami-sensitive taste cells) but not gustducin or carbonic anhydrase-4 (markers of bitter/sweet- and sour-sensitive taste cells, respectively) in circumvallate papillae. Furthermore, Pcdh20 expression in taste cells occurred later than T1R3 expression during the morphogenesis of taste papillae. Thus, Pcdh20 may be involved in taste quality-specific connections between differentiated taste cells and their partner neurons, thereby acting as a molecular tag for the coding of sweet and/or umami taste.
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