Epithelial overexpression of BDNF and NT4 produces distinct gustatory axon morphologies that disrupt initial targeting

Dev Biol. 2006 Apr 15;292(2):457-68. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2006.01.021. Epub 2006 Feb 28.


Most fungiform taste buds fail to become innervated when BDNF or NT4 is overexpressed in the basal layer of tongue epithelium. Here, we examined when and how overexpression of BDNF and NT4 disrupt innervation to fungiform papillae. Overexpression of either factor disrupted chorda tympani innervation patterns either before or during the initial innervation of fungiform papillae. NT4 and BDNF overexpression each disrupted initial innervation by producing different gustatory axon morphologies that emerge at distinct times (E12.5 and E14.5, respectively). Chorda tympani nerve branching was reduced in NT4 overexpressing mice, and neuronal fibers in these mice were fasciculated and remained below the epithelial surface, as if repelled by NT4 overexpression. In contrast, many chorda tympani nerve branches were observed near the epithelial surface in mice overexpressing BDNF, and most were attracted to and invaded non-taste filiform papillae instead of gustatory papillae. These results suggest that BDNF, but not NT4, normally functions as a chemoattractant that allows chorda tympani fibers to distinguish their fungiform papillae targets from non-gustatory epithelium. Since BDNF and NT4 both signal through the p75 and TrkB receptors, trophin-specific activation of different internal signaling pathways must regulate the development of the distinct gustatory axon morphologies in neurotrophin-overexpressing mice.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / ultrastructure*
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / genetics*
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / physiology*
  • Crosses, Genetic
  • Epithelium / embryology
  • Epithelium / growth & development
  • Epithelium / metabolism
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C3H
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Nerve Growth Factors / genetics*
  • Nerve Growth Factors / physiology*
  • Tongue / embryology*
  • Tongue / growth & development
  • Tongue / innervation
  • Tongue / physiology
  • Tongue / ultrastructure
  • Transgenes


  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Nerve Growth Factors