The anion paradox in sodium taste reception: resolution by voltage-clamp studies

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Science  01 Nov 1991:
Vol. 254, Issue 5032, pp. 724-726
DOI: 10.1126/science.1948054


Sodium salts are potent taste stimuli, but their effectiveness is markedly dependent on the anion, with chloride yielding the greatest response. The cellular mechanisms that mediate this phenomenon are not known. This "anion paradox" has been resolved by considering the field potential that is generated by restricted electrodiffusion of the anion through paracellular shunts between taste-bud cells. Neural responses to sodium chloride, sodium acetate, and sodium gluconate were studied while the field potential was voltage-clamped. Clamping at electronegative values eliminated the anion effect, whereas clamping at electropositive potentials exaggerated it. Thus, field potentials across the lingual epithelium modulate taste reception, indicating that the functional unit of taste reception includes the taste cell and its paracellular microenvironment.