The long-term objective of this project is twofold. First, our aim is to study cell-to-cell communication in the vertebrate taste buds. We will investigate taste buds in amphibia (Necturus maculosus) and in mammals (hamsters, rabbits, mice). One of our Specific Aims is to investigate which neurotransmitters are involved at synapses in taste organs. We plan to use a battery of neurochemical and molecular biological techniques, including immunocytochemistry, quantitative autoradiography, and high pressure liquid chromatography with electrochemical detection. We will determine which transmitters are present in taste buds; which ones are taken up by taste cells and released by calcium-dependent mechanisms when the cells are stimulated; and where the transmitters are localized. We will also study electrical synapses between taste cells and the localization of gap junction proteins. Second, we will study the function of Merkel-like basal cells and their putative role in neuromodulation of taste bud function. Merkel-like basal cells contain high concentrations of serotonin, among other substances and release the monoamine when they are depolarized. We will investigate whether serotonin is a neuromodulator of taste bud function in amphibia and in mammals. In the broad view, our experiments may lead to the rational design of pharmaceutical agents that can suppress, enhance or modify taste since we will determine what neurotransmitters are acting in the taste organs and since our data will lead to an understanding of how chemicals act on the apical, chemosensory membrane of taste cells.

Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
University of Colorado Denver
United States
Zip Code
Finger, Thomas E; Bartel, Dianna L; Shultz, Nicole et al. (2017) 5HTR3A-driven GFP labels immature olfactory sensory neurons. J Comp Neurol 525:1743-1755
Tizzano, Marco; Finger, Thomas E (2013) Chemosensors in the nose: guardians of the airways. Physiology (Bethesda) 28:51-60
Finger, Thomas E (2009) Evolution of gustatory reflex systems in the brainstems of fishes. Integr Zool 4:53-63
Ikenaga, Takanori; Ogura, Tatsuya; Finger, Thomas E (2009) Vagal gustatory reflex circuits for intraoral food sorting behavior in the goldfish: cellular organization and neurotransmitters. J Comp Neurol 516:213-25
Huesa, Gema; Ikenaga, Takanori; Bottger, Barbel et al. (2008) Calcium-fluxing glutamate receptors associated with primary gustatory afferent terminals in goldfish (Carassius auratus). J Comp Neurol 506:694-707
Finger, Thomas E (2008) Sorting food from stones: the vagal taste system in Goldfish, Carassius auratus. J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol 194:135-43
Yee, Cindy; Bartel, Dianna L; Finger, Thomas E (2005) Effects of glossopharyngeal nerve section on the expression of neurotrophins and their receptors in lingual taste buds of adult mice. J Comp Neurol 490:371-90
Linschoten, Miriam R; Harvey Jr, Lewis O (2004) Detecting malingerers by means of response-sequence analysis. Percept Psychophys 66:1190-201
Hall, Joshua M H; Bell, Melanie L; Finger, Thomas E (2003) Disruption of sonic hedgehog signaling alters growth and patterning of lingual taste papillae. Dev Biol 255:263-77
Finger, Thomas E; Bottger, Barbel; Hansen, Anne et al. (2003) Solitary chemoreceptor cells in the nasal cavity serve as sentinels of respiration. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 100:8981-6

Showing the most recent 10 out of 37 publications