ATP signaling is crucial for communication from taste buds to gustatory nerves

Science. 2005 Dec 2;310(5753):1495-9. doi: 10.1126/science.1118435.


Taste receptor cells detect chemicals in the oral cavity and transmit this information to taste nerves, but the neurotransmitter(s) have not been identified. We report that adenosine 5'-triphosphate (ATP) is the key neurotransmitter in this system. Genetic elimination of ionotropic purinergic receptors (P2X2 and P2X3) eliminates taste responses in the taste nerves, although the nerves remain responsive to touch, temperature, and menthol. Similarly, P2X-knockout mice show greatly reduced behavioral responses to sweeteners, glutamate, and bitter substances. Finally, stimulation of taste buds in vitro evokes release of ATP. Thus, ATP fulfils the criteria for a neurotransmitter linking taste buds to the nervous system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Chorda Tympani Nerve / metabolism*
  • Glossopharyngeal Nerve / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / metabolism
  • Receptors, Purinergic P2 / genetics
  • Receptors, Purinergic P2 / metabolism
  • Receptors, Purinergic P2X2
  • Receptors, Purinergic P2X3
  • Receptors, Serotonin, 5-HT3 / genetics
  • Receptors, Serotonin, 5-HT3 / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Taste Buds / metabolism*


  • Neurotransmitter Agents
  • P2rx2 protein, mouse
  • P2rx3 protein, mouse
  • Receptors, Purinergic P2
  • Receptors, Purinergic P2X2
  • Receptors, Purinergic P2X3
  • Receptors, Serotonin, 5-HT3
  • Adenosine Triphosphate