Functional role for interleukin-1 in the injured peripheral taste system

Liqiao Shi, Lianying He, Padma Sarvepalli, Lynnette Phillips Mccluskey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


The peripheral taste system presents an excellent model for studying the consequences of neural injury, for the damaged nerve and sensory cells and the neighboring, intact neural cells. Sectioning a primary afferent nerve, the chorda tympani (CT), rapidly recruits neutrophils to both sides of the tongue. The bilateral neutrophil response induces transient functional deficits in the intact CT. Normal function is subsequently restored as macrophages respond to injury. We hypothesized that macrophages produce the proinflammatory cytokine interleukin (IL)-1, which contributes to the maintenance of normal taste function after nearby injury. We demonstrate that IL-1β protein levels are significantly increased on the injured side of the tongue at day 2 after injury. Dietary sodium deficiency, a manipulation that prevents macrophage recruitment, inhibits the elevation in IL-1β. IL-1β was expressed in several cell populations, including taste receptor cells and infiltrating neutrophils and macrophages. To test whether IL-1 modulates taste function after injury, we blocked signaling with an IL-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1 RA) and recorded taste responses from the intact CT. This treatment inhibited the bilateral macrophage response to injury and impaired taste responses in the intact CT. Cytokine actions in the taste system are largely unstudied. These results demonstrate that IL-1 has a beneficial effect on taste function after nearby injury, in contrast to its detrimental role in the injured central nervous system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)816-830
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Neuroscience Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2012


  • Chorda tympani nerve
  • Cytokine
  • Degeneration
  • Gustatory
  • Nerve injury
  • Neural-immune interactions
  • Taste bud

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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