Taste Receptor Cells That Discriminate Between Bitter Stimuli

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Science  23 Feb 2001:
Vol. 291, Issue 5508, pp. 1557-1560
DOI: 10.1126/science.1056670

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Recent studies showing that single taste bud cells express multiple bitter taste receptors have reignited a long-standing controversy over whether single gustatory receptor cells respond selectively or broadly to tastants. We examined calcium responses of rat taste receptor cells in situ to a panel of bitter compounds to determine whether individual cells distinguish between bitter stimuli. Most bitter-responsive taste cells were activated by only one out of five compounds tested. In taste cells that responded to multiple stimuli, there were no significant associations between any two stimuli. Bitter sensation does not appear to occur through the activation of a homogeneous population of broadly tuned bitter-sensitive taste cells. Instead, different bitter stimuli may activate different subpopulations of bitter-sensitive taste cells.

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