Possible role for salivary gland protein in taste reception indicated by homology to lipophilic-ligand carrier proteins

Nature. 1990 Jan 25;343(6256):366-9. doi: 10.1038/343366a0.


Sensory transduction in taste and olfaction, the principal chemical senses, seems to be mediated by membrane-associated proteins on the apical surfaces of the respective receptor cells. The recent isolation and characterization of soluble 'odorant-binding proteins' secreted from the nasal glands of rat, cow and frog, led to the hypothesis that these proteins function as necessary cofactors in olfactory transduction by concentrating and delivering odorants to the receptors. The primary reception of taste stimuli occurs in specialized neuroepithelial receptor cells bundled in taste buds that are clustered in various types of papillae in the lingual epithelium of the tongue. Small tubulo-alveolar salivary glands, the von Ebner's glands, are located beneath the circumvallate and the foliate papillae. Their ducts open exclusively into the trough at the base of the papillae. Taste buds located in the medial and lateral walls of the papillae open with their taste pores into the trough and consequently are in direct contact with the secretions of von Ebner's glands. Here we report the molecular cloning and characterization of a protein of relative molecular mass 18,000 that is highly expressed in von Ebner's glands. Like the odorant-binding proteins, this protein shows similarity to members of a protein superfamily of hydrophobic molecule transporters, indicating that pre-receptor events could also be necessary for the concentration and delivery of sapid molecules in the gustatory system, and emphasizing the close relationship of taste and olfaction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Carrier Proteins*
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • DNA / genetics
  • Gene Expression
  • Lipocalin 1
  • Male
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Molecular Weight
  • Oocytes / metabolism
  • Poly A / genetics
  • Poly A / isolation & purification
  • Protein Biosynthesis
  • RNA / analysis
  • RNA / genetics
  • RNA / isolation & purification
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Rats
  • Salivary Glands / analysis
  • Salivary Glands / metabolism*
  • Salivary Proteins and Peptides / genetics
  • Salivary Proteins and Peptides / physiology*
  • Sequence Homology, Nucleic Acid
  • Taste / physiology*
  • Transfection
  • Xenopus laevis


  • Carrier Proteins
  • Lcn1 protein, rat
  • Lipocalin 1
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Salivary Proteins and Peptides
  • Poly A
  • RNA
  • DNA