Taste bud cells undergo continual turnover even in adulthood, and their average lifespan has been estimated as approximately 10 days. However, it is not clear whether this figure can be applied to all the different cell types contained in a taste bud. Here, we describe the age and life cycle of taste bud cells in rat circumvallate papillae, and indicate that the lifespan is heterogeneous, ranging from 2 days to over 3 weeks. Taste bud cells were incorporated from the basal proliferative layer in 1-2 days after birth. After incorporation, approximately half of the cells were eliminated within 2-3 days, and the remaining half were maintained with gradual decrease, suggesting that there are at least two types of cells; short-lived cells and long-lived cells. Moreover, above 10% of the incorporated cells were maintained at 3 weeks. In order to gain information about the relationship between the cell functions and the cell age, we carried out double-labeling experiments using 5-bromo-2'-deoxyuridine and each of two markers for in situ hybridization: mammalian achaete-scute homolog 1 (Mash1) and phospholipase C beta 2 (PLCbeta2) as markers of early differentiation and functional taste signaling, respectively. Mash1 expression began immediately after the incorporation and reached a maximum at 5-6 days after birth. Fewer but distinct Mash1-positive cells were still observed after 3 weeks. PLCbeta2 expression was observed from day 5, reached a maximum at day 12, and continued over 3 weeks. Taken together, a taste bud contains both short-lived and long-lived cells: the short-lived cells are eliminated in a time course similar to the surrounding epithelial cells, and the long-lived cells including taste receptor cells have a lifespan longer than the previous estimation.