Studies have suggested that communication between taste cells shapes the gustatory signal before transmission to the brain. To further explore the possibility of intragemmal signal modulation, we adopted an optogenetic approach to stimulate sour-sensitive (Type III) taste cells using mice expressing Cre recombinase under a specific Type III cell promoter, Pkd2l1 (polycystic kidney disease-2-like 1), crossed with mice expressing Cre-dependent channelrhodopsin (ChR2). The application of blue light onto the tongue allowed for the specific stimulation of Type III cells and circumvented the nonspecific effects of chemical stimulation. To understand whether taste modality information is preprocessed in the taste bud before transmission to the sensory nerves, we recorded chorda tympani nerve activity during light and/or chemical tastant application to the tongue. To assess intragemmal modulation, we compared nerve responses to various tastants with or without concurrent light-induced activation of the Type III cells. Our results show that light significantly decreased taste responses to sweet, bitter, salty, and acidic stimuli. On the contrary, the light response was not consistently affected by sweet or bitter stimuli, suggesting that activation of Type II cells does not affect nerve responses to stimuli that activate Type III cells.

This work is written by (a) US Government employee(s) and is in the public domain in the US.