Taste buds in the oral cavity have a complex immune system regulating normal functions and inflammatory reactions. Cyclophosphamide (CYP), a chemotherapy drug, has wide-ranging disruptive effects on the taste system including loss of taste function, taste sensory cells, and capacity for taste cell renewal. In bladder epithelium, CYP also induces inflammation. To determine if CYP induces inflammation in taste buds, we used immunohistochemistry to examine tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) (a proinflammatory cytokine) expression over a 72-hour period. Expression of TNF-α increased in a subset of PLCβ2 labeled (Type II) cells, but not SNAP-25 labeled (Type III) cells, between 8 and 24 h postinjection and declined slowly thereafter. This inflammatory response may play an important role in the disruptive effects of CYP on the taste system. Further, pretreatment with amifostine, a sulfhydryl drug known to protect normal tissues during chemo- or radiation therapy, reduced the amount of CYP-induced TNF-α expression in taste buds, suggesting this drug is capable of protecting normal cells of the taste system from adverse effects of CYP. Amifostine, used as a pretreatment to CYP and possibly other chemotherapy drugs, may offer clinical support for preventing negative side effects of chemotherapy on the taste system.

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