In taste buds, Type I cells represent the majority of cells (50–60%) and primarily have a glial-like function in taste buds. However, recent studies suggest that they have additional sensory and signaling functions including amiloride-sensitive salt transduction, oxytocin modulation of taste, and substance P mediated GABA release. Nonetheless, the overall function of Type I cells in transduction and signaling remains unclear, primarily because of the lack of a reliable reporter for this cell type. GAD65 expression is specific to Type I taste cells and GAD65 has been used as a Cre driver to study Type I cells in salt taste transduction. To test the specificity of transgene-driven expression, we crossed GAD65Cre mice with floxed tdTomato and Channelrhodopsin (ChR2) lines and examined the progeny with immunochemistry, chorda tympani recording, and calcium imaging. We report that while many tdTomato+ taste cells express NTPDase2, a specific marker of Type I cells, we see some expression of tdTomato in both Gustducin and SNAP25-positive taste cells. We also see ChR2 in cells just outside the fungiform taste buds. Chorda tympani recordings in the GAD65Cre/ChR2 mice show large responses to blue light. Furthermore, several isolated tdTomato-positive taste cells responded to KCl depolarization with increases in intracellular calcium, indicating the presence of voltage-gated calcium channels. Taken together, these data suggest that GAD65Cre mice drive expression in multiple taste cell types and thus cannot be considered a reliable reporter of Type I cell function.

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