Functional plasticity of regenerated and intact taste receptors in adult rats unmasked by dietary sodium restriction

David L. Hill, Lynnette M. Phillips

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Unilateral chorda tympani nerve sectioning was combined with institution of a sodium-restricted diet in adult rats to determine the role that environment has on the functional properties of regenerating taste receptor cells. Rats receiving chorda tympani sectioning but no dietary manipulation (cut controls) and rats receiving only the dietary manipulation (diet controls) had normal responses to a concentration series of NaCl, sodium acetate (NaAc), and NH4Cl. However, responses from the regenerated nerve in NaCl-restricted rats (40-120 d postsectioning) to NaCl and NaAc were reduced by as much as 30% compared to controls, indicating that regenerating taste receptors are influenced by environmental (dietary) factors. Responses to NH4Cl were normal; therefore, the effect appears specific to sodium salts. Surprisingly, in the same rats, NaCl responses from the contralateral, intact chorda tympani were up to 40% greater than controls. Thus, in the same rat, there was over a twofold difference in sodium responses between the right and left chorda tympani nerves. A study of the time course of the functional alterations in the intact nerve revealed that responses to NaCl were extremely low immediately following sectioning (about 20% of the normal response), and then increased monotonically during the following 50 d until relative response magnitudes became supersensitive. This function occurred even when the cut chorda tympani was prevented from reinnervating lingual epithelia, demonstrating that events related to regeneration do not play a role in the functional properties of the contralateral side of the tongue. The anomalies in responses in the regenerated and the uncut nerves are attributable to functional alterations in the sodium transducer, the amiloride-sensitive sodium channel. Specifically, sodium transduction via the channel is decreased or increased from normal levels, depending on the experimental conditions. Although efferent neural effects cannot be disregarded, the present results suggest that alterations in circulating factors may modulate response properties of intact, lingual taste receptor cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2904-2910
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number5 I
StatePublished - May 1994
Externally publishedYes


  • amiloride
  • chorda tympani nerve
  • gustation
  • rat
  • receptor cells
  • receptor interactions
  • regeneration
  • sodium
  • supersensitivity
  • taste
  • tongue
  • transduction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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