Early dietary sodium restriction disrupts the peripheral anatomical development of the gustatory system

J Neurobiol. 1999 May;39(2):218-26. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1097-4695(199905)39:2<218::aid-neu6>3.0.co;2-5.


Dietary sodium restriction has profound effects on the development of peripheral taste function and central taste system anatomy. This study examined whether early dietary sodium restriction also affects innervation of taste buds. The number of geniculate ganglion cells that innervate single fungiform taste buds were quantified for the midregion of the tongue in two groups of rats: those fed either a low-sodium diet and those fed a sodium replete diet (control rats) from early prenatal development through adulthood. The same mean number of ganglion cells in developmentally sodium-restricted and control adult rats innervated taste buds on the midregion of the tongue. However, the characteristic relationship of the larger the taste bud, the more neurons that innervate it did not develop in sodium-restricted rats. The failure to form such a relationship in experimental rats was likely due to a substantially smaller mean taste bud volume than controls and probably not to changes in innervation. Further experiments demonstrated that the altered association between number of innervating neurons and taste bud size in restricted rats was reversible. Feeding developmentally sodium-restricted rats a sodium replete diet at adulthood resulted in an increase in taste bud size. Accordingly, the high correlation between taste bud volume and innervation was established in sodium-replete rats. Findings from the current study reveal that early dietary manipulations influence neuron-target interactions; however, the effects of dietary sodium restriction on peripheral gustatory anatomy can be completely restored, even in adult animals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diet
  • Female
  • Geniculate Ganglion / cytology
  • Neurons, Afferent / drug effects
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Sodium, Dietary / pharmacology*
  • Taste Buds / anatomy & histology
  • Taste Buds / drug effects*
  • Taste Buds / embryology*


  • Sodium, Dietary