There is strong evidence for gut-taste bud interactions that influence taste function, behavior and feeding. However, the effect of gut inflammation on this axis is unknown despite reports of taste changes in gastrointestinal (GI) inflammatory conditions. Lipopolysaccharide (LPS), an inflammatory stimulus derived from gram-negative bacteria, is present in the normal GI tract and levels increase during high-fat feeding and gut infection and inflammation. Recordings from the chorda tympani nerve (CT), which transmits taste information from taste buds on the anterior tongue to the brain, previously revealed a transient decrease in sucrose responses in mice that ingest LPS during a single overnight period. Here we test the effect of acute or chronic, weekly LPS gavage on licking behavior and CT responses. Using brief-access testing, rats treated with acute LPS and mice receiving acute or chronic LPS decreased licking responses to sucrose and saccharin and to NaCl in mice. In long-term (23 h) tests chronic LPS also reduced licking responses to saccharin, sucrose, and NaCl in mice. Neurophysiological recordings from the CT supported behavioral changes, demonstrating reduced responses to sucrose, saccharin, acesulfame potassium, glucose and NaCl in acute and chronic LPS groups compared to controls. Chronic LPS significantly elevated neutrophils in the small intestine and colon, but LPS was not detected in serum and mice did not display sickness behavior or lose weight. These results indicate that sweet and salt taste sensitivity could be reduced even in asymptomatic or mild localized gut inflammatory conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease.
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