The taste periphery comprises a distributed array of taste buds innervated by distinct cranial nerves. In recent years, theories of the embryonic development of this system have undergone radical revision. Previously, taste buds were thought to be induced from indifferent epithelium by in growth of taste nerves;but new results demonstrate that early events in taste bud development occur before, and in the total absence of, innervation, raising anew questions of how taste buds develop. We now propose to examine this problem by taking advantage of the excellent molecular genetics of the mouse model system. In mice, lingual taste buds are restricted to papillae, which form by mid-gestation and likely contain taste bud progenitors;yet taste buds proper do not appear until postnatal stages. Two signaling factors (Sonic Hedgehog [Shh] and Bone Morphogenetic Proteins [BMPs]) are expressed in a subset of papillary epithelial cells, and both pathways influence murine taste development. Our preliminary data suggest that the Shh- expressing cells may be taste bud stem cells. And our newest findings implicate yet another, crucial signaling system, the Wnt pathway, in taste organ development, as gain or loss of Wnt signaling in embryonic tongues significantly affects papillae. Interactions of these 3 signaling pathways (Wnt, Shh and BMP) are known to drive development of many other epithelial specializations, including hair, feather and teeth, but their precise roles in taste organ development are unknown. With a nerve-independent view of early taste organ development, and a molecular genetic approach, we are now poised to work out the molecular mechanisms governing development of this vital sensory system. In the following 3 aims, we will test the overall hypothesis that: Taste buds originate from embryonic Shh-expressing stem cells whose development is regulated by interactions of the Wnt, Shh and BMP pathways.
Aim 1 : Ascertain whether embryonic Shh-expressing taste placode cells are taste bud stem cells.
Aim 2 : Determine how Wnts interact with BMP and Shh to regulate taste organ development.
Aim 3 : Test if epithelial Wnt signaling is sufficient for taste organ development. Successful completion of these aims is important for issues of human health related to taste function, as well as more generally to enhance knowledge of embryonic development and its misregulation.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Neurogenesis and Cell Fate Study Section (NCF)
Program Officer
Davis, Barry
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
University of Colorado Denver
Schools of Medicine
United States
Zip Code
Gaillard, Dany; Bowles, Spencer G; Salcedo, Ernesto et al. (2017) ?-catenin is required for taste bud cell renewal and behavioral taste perception in adult mice. PLoS Genet 13:e1006990
Thirumangalathu, Shoba; Barlow, Linda A (2015) ?-Catenin signaling regulates temporally discrete phases of anterior taste bud development. Development 142:4309-17
Gaillard, Dany; Xu, Mingang; Liu, Fei et al. (2015) ?-Catenin Signaling Biases Multipotent Lingual Epithelial Progenitors to Differentiate and Acquire Specific Taste Cell Fates. PLoS Genet 11:e1005208
Miura, Hirohito; Scott, Jennifer K; Harada, Shuitsu et al. (2014) Sonic hedgehog-expressing basal cells are general post-mitotic precursors of functional taste receptor cells. Dev Dyn 243:1286-97
Castillo, David; Seidel, Kerstin; Salcedo, Ernesto et al. (2014) Induction of ectopic taste buds by SHH reveals the competency and plasticity of adult lingual epithelium. Development 141:2993-3002
Kapsimali, Marika; Barlow, Linda A (2013) Developing a sense of taste. Semin Cell Dev Biol 24:200-9
Gaillard, Dany; Barlow, Linda A (2011) Taste bud cells of adult mice are responsive to Wnt/?-catenin signaling: implications for the renewal of mature taste cells. Genesis 49:295-306
Harlow, Danielle E; Yang, Hui; Williams, Trevor et al. (2011) Epibranchial placode-derived neurons produce BDNF required for early sensory neuron development. Dev Dyn 240:309-23
Miura, H; Barlow, L A (2010) Taste bud regeneration and the search for taste progenitor cells. Arch Ital Biol 148:107-18
Nguyen, Ha M; Barlow, Linda A (2010) Differential expression of a BMP4 reporter allele in anterior fungiform versus posterior circumvallate taste buds of mice. BMC Neurosci 11:129

Showing the most recent 10 out of 12 publications