Some bitter taste receptors (TAS2R gene products) are expressed in the human sinonasal cavity and may function to detect airborne irritants. The expression of all 25 human bitter taste receptors and their location within the upper airway is not yet clear. The aim of this study is to characterize the presence and distribution of TAS2R transcripts and solitary chemosensory cells (SCCs) in different locations of the human sinonasal cavity. Biopsies were obtained from human subjects at up to 4 different sinonasal anatomic sites. PCR, microarray, and qRT-PCR were used to examine gene transcript expression. The 25 human bitter taste receptors as well as the sweet/umami receptor subunit, TAS1R3, and canonical taste signaling effectors are expressed in sinonasal tissue. All 25 human bitter taste receptors are expressed in the human upper airway, and expression of these gene products was higher in the ethmoid sinus than nasal cavity locations. Fluorescent in situ hybridization demonstrates that epithelial TRPM5 and TAS2R38 are expressed in a rare cell population compared with multiciliated cells, and at times, consistent with SCC morphology. Secondary analysis of published human sinus single-cell RNAseq data did not uncover TAS2R or canonical taste transduction transcripts in multiciliated cells. These findings indicate that the sinus has higher expression of SCC markers than the nasal cavity in chronic rhinosinusitis patients, comprising a rare cell type. Biopsies obtained from the ethmoid sinus may serve as the best location for study of human upper airway taste receptors and SCCs.

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