The peripheral sensory organ of the gustatory system, the taste bud, contains a heterogeneous collection of sensory cells. These taste cells can differ in the stimuli to which they respond and the receptors and other signaling molecules they employ to transduce and encode those stimuli. This molecular diversity extends to the expression of a varied repertoire of bioactive peptides that appear to play important functional roles in signaling taste information between the taste cells and afferent sensory nerves and/or in processing sensory signals within the taste bud itself. Here, we review studies that examine the expression of bioactive peptides in the taste bud and the impact of those peptides on taste functions. Many of these peptides produced in taste buds are known to affect appetite, satiety or metabolism through their actions in the brain, pancreas and other organs, suggesting a functional link between the gustatory system and the neural and endocrine systems that regulate feeding and nutrient utilization.
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