Perception of salty tastes by humans is influenced by gender, but this phenomenon has been largely unexamined in animal models, even in species such as rat in which much is known about the peripheral mechanisms and central pathways involved in the processing of taste information. Most studies have examined the ingestion of NaCI solutions rather than the taste. Sex differences have been reported in NaCI ingestion stimulated by experimental methods to produce a sodium deficit. Similarly, sex differences in spontaneous, need-free intake of and preference for NaCI by rats during long-term tests also have been reported. In both cases, removal of estrogen by ovariectomy eliminated sex differences in NaCI intake. However, estrogen also has substantial effects on body sodium and fluid regulation. Thus, given the post-ingestive consequences that occur during prolonged ingestion, and the use of experimental methods that disrupt body sodium and fluid balance, these results may provide limited information about sex differences in NaCI taste responses. A few studies using taste reactivity procedures to more directly examine taste responses indicate that there are sex differences in the responses to NaCI taste in rats, but the role of estrogen was not specifically evaluated. Moreover, the basis of sex differences in taste responses to NaCI remains virtually unknown. Within the central nervous system, responses of neurons in the parabrachial nucleus to sapid NaCI are affected by estrogen. Thus, sex differences in behavioral taste responses to NaCI may be attributable to direct effects of estrogen on central gustatory pathways. Alternatively, differences in peripheral sensory neural responses to NaCI may contribute to sex differences in taste responses by altering the sensory information that ultimately stimulates activity in central gustatory pathways. At present, little is known about the effect of estrogen on peripheral sensory responses to NaCI taste or on activity in central gustatory pathways in rats, or about how such effects may contribute to differences in behavior. This application will use behavioral, electrophysiological, neuroanatomical, and immunocytochemical methods to address these questions, thereby providing better understanding of the influence of estrogen on gustation. Ultimately, such information may be useful in understanding sex differences in other behaviors.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
Small Research Grants (R03)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZDC1-SRB-R (32))
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Davis, Barry
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Florida State University
Schools of Arts and Sciences
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Curtis, Kathleen S (2015) Estradiol and osmolality: Behavioral responses and central pathways. Physiol Behav 152:422-30
Curtis, J Thomas; Anderson, Michael B; Curtis, Kathleen S (2013) Regional differences in serotonin content in the nucleus of the solitary tract of male rats after hypovolemia produced by polyethylene glycol. J Physiol Sci 63:39-46
Jones, Alexis B; Bass, Eryn E; Fan, Liming et al. (2012) Estradiol selectively reduces central neural activation induced by hypertonic NaCl infusion in ovariectomized rats. Physiol Behav 107:192-200
Graves, Nora S; Hayes, Heather; Fan, Liming et al. (2011) Time course of behavioral, physiological, and morphological changes after estradiol treatment of ovariectomized rats. Physiol Behav 103:261-7
Fan, Liming; Smith, Courtney E; Curtis, Kathleen S (2010) Regional differences in estradiol effects on numbers of HSD2-containing neurons in the nucleus of the solitary tract of rats. Brain Res 1358:89-101
Jones, Alexis B; Curtis, Kathleen S (2009) Differential effects of estradiol on drinking by ovariectomized rats in response to hypertonic NaCl or isoproterenol: Implications for hyper- vs. hypo-osmotic stimuli for water intake. Physiol Behav 98:421-6
Stratford, Jennifer M; Curtis, Kathleen S; Contreras, Robert J (2008) Linoleic acid increases chorda tympani nerve responses to and behavioral preferences for monosodium glutamate by male and female rats. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol 295:R764-72
Garcia, Joanne M; Curtis, Kathleen S; Contreras, Robert J (2008) Behavioral and electrophysiological taste responses change after brief or prolonged dietary sodium deprivation. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol 295:R1754-61
Breza, Joseph M; Curtis, Kathleen S; Contreras, Robert J (2007) Monosodium glutamate but not linoleic acid differentially activates gustatory neurons in the rat geniculate ganglion. Chem Senses 32:833-46
Krause, Eric G; Curtis, Kathleen S; Markle, Jason P et al. (2007) Oestrogen affects the cardiovascular and central responses to isoproterenol of female rats. J Physiol 582:435-47

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