Postnatal reduction of BDNF regulates the developmental remodeling of taste bud innervation

Dev Biol. 2015 Sep 15;405(2):225-36. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2015.07.006. Epub 2015 Jul 8.


The refinement of innervation is a common developmental mechanism that serves to increase the specificity of connections following initial innervation. In the peripheral gustatory system, the extent to which innervation is refined and how refinement might be regulated is unclear. The initial innervation of taste buds is controlled by brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Following initial innervation, taste receptor cells are added and become newly innervated. The connections between the taste receptor cells and nerve fibers are likely to be specific in order to retain peripheral coding mechanisms. Here, we explored the possibility that the down-regulation of BDNF regulates the refinement of taste bud innervation during postnatal development. An analysis of BDNF expression in Bdnf(lacZ/+) mice and real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) revealed that BDNF was down-regulated between postnatal day (P) 5 and P10. This reduction in BDNF expression was due to a loss of precursor/progenitor cells that express BDNF, while the expression of BDNF in the subpopulations of taste receptor cells did not change. Gustatory innervation, which was identified by P2X3 immunohistochemistry, was lost around the perimeter where most progenitor/precursor cells are located. In addition, the density of innervation in the taste bud was reduced between P5 and P10, because taste buds increase in size without increasing innervation. This reduction of innervation density was blocked by the overexpression of BDNF in the precursor/progenitor population of taste bud cells. Together these findings indicate that the process of BDNF restriction to a subpopulation of taste receptor cells between P5 and P10, results in a refinement of gustatory innervation. We speculate that this refinement results in an increased specificity of connections between neurons and taste receptor cells during development.

Keywords: BDNF overexpression; Fungiform taste buds; Innervation density; Precursor/progenitor taste cells; Taste receptor cells; β-galactosidase.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Animals
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / physiology*
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Keratin-8 / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • SOXB1 Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Stem Cells / cytology
  • Taste
  • Taste Buds / growth & development*


  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Keratin-8
  • SOXB1 Transcription Factors
  • Sox2 protein, mouse