We have characterized a recently rediscovered chemosensory structure at the rear of the mandibular mucosa in the mouse oral cavity originally reported in the 1980s. This consists of unorganized taste buds, not contained within troughs, associated with the ducts of an underlying minor salivary gland. Using whole-mount preparations of transgenic mice expressing green fluorescent protein under the promoter of taste-signaling-specific genes, we determined that the structure contains taste bud clusters and salivary gland orifices at the rear of each mandible, distal to the last molar and anterior to the ascending ramus. Immunohistochemical analysis shows in the retromolar taste buds expression of the taste receptors Tas2R131 and T1R3 and taste cascade molecules TrpM5, PLCβ2, and GNAT3, consistent with type II taste cells, and expression of GAD1, consistent with type III taste cells. Furthermore, the neuronal marker, calcitonin gene-related peptide, in retromolar mucosa tissue wrapping around TrpM5+ taste buds was observed. RT–PCR showed that retromolar taste buds express all 3 mouse tas1r genes, 28 of the 35 tas2r genes, and taste transduction signaling genes gnat3, plcb2, and trpm5, making the retromolar taste buds similar to other lingual and palate taste buds. Finally, histochemistry demonstrated that the mandibular retromolar secretory gland is a minor salivary gland of mucous type. The mandibular retromolar taste structure may thus play a role in taste sensation and represent a potential novel pharmacological target for taste disorders.

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