Dual actions of caffeine on voltage-dependent currents and intracellular calcium in taste receptor cells

Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2002 Jul;283(1):R115-29. doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.00410.2001.


Although the numerous stimuli representing the taste quality of bitterness are known to be transduced through multiple mechanisms, recent studies have suggested an unpredicted complexity of the transduction pathways for individual bitter stimuli. To investigate this notion more thoroughly, a single prototypic bitter stimulus, caffeine, was studied by using patch-clamp and ratiometric imaging techniques on dissociated rat taste receptor cells. At behaviorally relevant concentrations, caffeine produced strong inhibition of outwardly and inwardly rectifying potassium currents. Caffeine additionally inhibited calcium current, produced a weaker inhibition of sodium current, and was without effect on chloride current. Consistent with its effects on voltage-dependent currents, caffeine caused a broadening of the action potential and an increase of the input resistance. Caffeine was an effective stimulus for elevation of intracellular calcium. This elevation was concentration dependent, independent of extracellular calcium or ryanodine, and dependent on intracellular stores as evidenced by thapsigargin treatment. These dual actions on voltage-activated ionic currents and intracellular calcium levels suggest that a single taste stimulus, caffeine, utilizes multiple transduction mechanisms.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / drug effects
  • Animals
  • Caffeine / pharmacology*
  • Calcium / metabolism*
  • Calcium Channels / drug effects*
  • Cell Membrane / drug effects
  • Cell Membrane / physiology
  • Electric Impedance
  • Intracellular Membranes / metabolism*
  • Neurons, Afferent / drug effects
  • Neurons, Afferent / metabolism*
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology
  • Potassium Channels, Voltage-Gated / drug effects*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Taste / physiology*


  • Calcium Channels
  • Potassium Channels, Voltage-Gated
  • Caffeine
  • Calcium