Role of the ectonucleotidase NTPDase2 in taste bud function

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Sep 3;110(36):14789-94. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1309468110. Epub 2013 Aug 19.


Taste buds are unusual in requiring ATP as a transmitter to activate sensory nerve fibers. In response to taste stimuli, taste cells release ATP, activating purinergic receptors containing the P2X2 and P2X3 subunits on taste nerves. In turn, the released ATP is hydrolyzed to ADP by a plasma membrane nucleoside triphosphate previously identified as nucleoside triphosphate diphosphohydrolase-2 (NTPDase2). In this paper we investigate the role of this ectonucleotidase in the function of taste buds by examining gene-targeted Entpd2-null mice globally lacking NTPDase2. RT-PCR confirmed the absence of NTPDase2, and ATPase enzyme histochemistry reveals no reaction product in taste buds of knockout mice, suggesting that NTPDase2 is the dominant form in taste buds. RT-PCR and immunocytochemistry demonstrated that in knockout mice all cell types are present in taste buds, even those cells normally expressing NTPDase2. In addition, the overall number and size of taste buds are normal in Entpd2-null mice. Luciferin/luciferase assays of circumvallate tissue of knockout mice detected elevated levels of extracellular ATP. Electrophysiological recordings from two taste nerves, the chorda tympani and glossopharyngeal, revealed depressed responses to all taste stimuli in Entpd2-null mice. Responses were more depressed in the glossopharyngeal nerve than in the chorda tympani nerve and involved all taste qualities; responses in the chorda tympani were more depressed to sweet and umami stimuli than to other qualities. We suggest that the excessive levels of extracellular ATP in the Entpd2-knockout animals desensitize the P2X receptors associated with nerve fibers, thereby depressing taste responses.

Keywords: E-NTPDase; gustatory; mouse; purinergic signaling; synaptic function.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphatases / genetics
  • Adenosine Triphosphatases / metabolism*
  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Chorda Tympani Nerve / physiology
  • Gene Expression
  • Glossopharyngeal Nerve / physiology
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Mice
  • Mice, 129 Strain
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Taste / physiology*
  • Taste Buds / enzymology*
  • Taste Buds / metabolism
  • Taste Buds / physiology*


  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • Adenosine Triphosphatases
  • ectoATPase