Neuron/target matching between chorda tympani neurons and taste buds during postnatal rat development

J Neurobiol. 2000 Apr;43(1):98-106.


During postnatal development, a relationship is established between the size of individual taste buds and number of innervating neurons. To determine whether rearrangement of neurons that innervate taste buds establishes this relationship, we labeled single taste buds at postnatal day 10 (P10) and again at either P15, P20, or P40 with retrograde fluorescent neuronal tracers. The number of single- and double-labeled geniculate ganglion cells was counted, and the respective taste bud volumes were measured for the three groups of rats. The current study replicates findings from an earlier report demonstrating that the larger the taste bud, the more geniculate ganglion cells that innervate it. This relationship between taste bud size and number of innervating neurons is not apparent until P40, when taste bud size reaches maturity. These findings are extended here by demonstrating that the number of neurons that innervate taste buds at P10, when taste bud size is small and relatively homogeneous, predicts the size that the respective taste bud will become at maturity. Moreover, while there is some neural rearrangement of taste bud innervation from P10 to P40, rearrangement does not impact the relationship between taste bud size and innervating neurons. That is, the neurons that maintain contact with taste buds from P10 through P40 accurately predict the mature taste bud size. Therefore, the size of the mature taste bud is determined by P10 and relates to the number of sensory neurons that innervate it at that age and the number of neurons that maintain contact with it throughout the first 40 days of postnatal development.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Benzofurans
  • Cell Count
  • Cell Size
  • Chorda Tympani Nerve / cytology*
  • Chorda Tympani Nerve / growth & development*
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Geniculate Ganglion / cytology
  • Geniculate Ganglion / growth & development
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Neurons / cytology*
  • Rats
  • Taste Buds / cytology*
  • Taste Buds / growth & development*
  • Tongue / cytology
  • Tongue / growth & development
  • Tongue / innervation


  • Benzofurans
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • true blue