Taste receptors in innate immunity

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2015 Jan;72(2):217-36. doi: 10.1007/s00018-014-1736-7. Epub 2014 Oct 17.


Taste receptors were first identified on the tongue, where they initiate a signaling pathway that communicates information to the brain about the nutrient content or potential toxicity of ingested foods. However, recent research has shown that taste receptors are also expressed in a myriad of other tissues, from the airway and gastrointestinal epithelia to the pancreas and brain. The functions of many of these extraoral taste receptors remain unknown, but emerging evidence suggests that bitter and sweet taste receptors in the airway are important sentinels of innate immunity. This review discusses taste receptor signaling, focusing on the G-protein-coupled receptors that detect bitter, sweet, and savory tastes, followed by an overview of extraoral taste receptors and in-depth discussion of studies demonstrating the roles of taste receptors in airway innate immunity. Future research on extraoral taste receptors has significant potential for identification of novel immune mechanisms and insights into host-pathogen interactions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate / physiology*
  • Models, Immunological*
  • Nitric Oxide / biosynthesis
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / immunology*
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / metabolism
  • Respiratory System / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction / immunology*


  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • Nitric Oxide