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Title: Long-term effects of nicotine on rat fungiform taste buds
Authors: Tomassini, Silvia
Cuoghi, Valeria
Catalani, Elisabetta
Casini, Giovanni
Bigiani, Albertino
Keywords: Gustation;Morphology;Immunohistochemistry;Gustducin;Membrane capacitance;Smoking
Issue Date: 2007
Publisher: Elsevier
Source: Tomassini, S. et al. 2007. Long-term effects of nicotine on rat fungiform taste buds. "Neuroscience" 147(3): 803-810
Nicotine, an alkaloid found in tobacco smoke, has been recognized as capable of inducing changes in taste functionality in conditions of chronic exposure. The mechanisms underlying these sensory alterations, however, are currently unknown. We addressed this issue by studying the long-term effects of nicotine on the anatomical features of taste buds, the peripheral end-organs of taste, in rat fungiform papillae. Nicotine was administered to rats via drinking water over a period of 3 weeks, which represents a standard method to achieve chronic drug exposure in laboratory animals. We found that prolonged administration of nicotine induced a significant reduction in the size of fungiform taste buds, without affecting their total number on the rat tongue. Morphometric measurements as well as evaluations of taste cell membrane capacitance suggested that the reduced size of taste organs was determined by a decrease in the number of cells per taste bud. In addition, chronic treatment with nicotine caused an increase in the relative density of cells expressing gustducin, a specific G protein _-subunit found in some taste cells and involved in bitter/sweet transduction. Interestingly, changes in the expression pattern of gustducin turned out to be more pronounced in periadolescent/adolescent than in adult rats. As a whole, our data indicate that long-term nicotine administration induces significant changes in the anatomical properties of taste buds in rat fungiform papillae. These changes could have a profound impact on the sensory information relayed to the brain; therefore, they may be responsible, at least in part, for the alterations in taste functionality observed during chronic nicotine exposure, a condition found in regular smokers.
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ISSN: 0306-4522
DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2007.04.053
Appears in Collections:DISA - Archivio della produzione scientifica

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