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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Expression of Galpha14 in sweet-transducing taste cells of the posterior tongue

Marco Tizzano12, Gennady Dvoryanchikov3, Jennell K Barrows12, Soochong Kim4, Nirupa Chaudhari35 and Thomas E Finger1*

Author Affiliations

1 Rocky Mountain Taste & Smell Center, Univ. Colorado Denver Sch. Medicine, Aurora CO 80045 USA

2 Dept. Cell & Devel. Biology, Univ. Colorado Denver Sch. Medicine, Aurora CO 80045 USA

3 Department of Physiology and Biophysics, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami, FL 33136 USA

4 Department of Physiology, Temple University Medical School, 3420 N Broad St, Philadelphia, PA 19140 USA

5 Program in Neurosciences, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami, FL 33136 USA

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BMC Neuroscience 2008, 9:110  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-9-110

Published: 13 November 2008



"Type II"/Receptor cells express G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) for sweet, umami (T1Rs and mGluRs) or bitter (T2Rs), as well as the proteins for downstream signalling cascades. Transduction downstream of T1Rs and T2Rs relies on G-protein and PLCβ2-mediated release of stored Ca2+. Whereas Gαgus (gustducin) couples to the T2R (bitter) receptors, which Gα-subunit couples to the sweet (T1R2 + T1R3) receptor is presently not known. We utilized RT-PCR, immunocytochemistry and single-cell gene expression profiling to examine the expression of the Gαq family (q, 11, 14) in mouse taste buds.


By RT-PCR, Gα14 is expressed strongly and in a taste selective manner in posterior (vallate and foliate), but not anterior (fungiform and palate) taste fields. Gαq and Gα11, although detectable, are not expressed in a taste-selective fashion. Further, expression of Gα14 mRNA is limited to Type II/Receptor cells in taste buds. Immunocytochemistry on vallate papillae using a broad Gαq family antiserum reveals specific staining only in Type II taste cells (i.e. those expressing TrpM5 and PLCβ2). This staining persists in Gαq knockout mice and immunostaining with a Gα11-specific antiserum shows no immunoreactivity in taste buds. Taken together, these data show that Gα14 is the dominant Gαq family member detected. Immunoreactivity for Gα14 strongly correlates with expression of T1R3, the taste receptor subunit present in taste cells responsive to either umami or sweet. Single cell gene expression profiling confirms a tight correlation between the expression of Gα14 and both T1R2 and T1R3, the receptor combination that forms sweet taste receptors.


Gα14 is co-expressed with the sweet taste receptor in posterior tongue, although not in anterior tongue. Thus, sweet taste transduction may rely on different downstream transduction elements in posterior and anterior taste fields.