Inflammatory cytokines are signaling molecules that regulate numerous physiological processes, from tissue homeostasis to metabolism and food intake. Expression of certain cytokines can be markedly induced in subsets of taste bud cells under acute and chronic inflammation. This may contribute to altered taste perception and preference associated with many diseases. Although the pathways of cytokine induction are well studied in immune cells, they remain poorly characterized in taste cells, in part due to the difficulties of performing biochemical analyses with a limited number of taste cells. The recently developed taste organoid model provides an opportunity to carry out these mechanistic studies in vitro. However, it was unknown whether taste organoids respond to inflammatory stimuli as do in vivo native taste buds. Here we analyze lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced expression and secretion of two inflammatory cytokines, tumor necrosis factor (TNF), and interleukin-6 (IL-6). We show that, similarly to native mouse taste epithelia, organoids derived from mouse circumvallate stem cells express several toll-like receptors (TLRs), including TLR4—the primary receptor for LPS. Organoids and native taste epithelia express all five genes in the nuclear factor-κb (Nfkb) family that encode the transcription factor NF-κB, a critical regulator of inflammatory responses. LPS stimulates fast induction of TNF and IL-6 with similar induction kinetics in organoids and native taste epithelia. These results show that taste epithelial cells possess necessary components for inflammatory cytokine induction and secretion and suggest that the organoid model can be a useful tool to dissect the underlying mechanisms.

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