Nitric oxide production is stimulated by bitter taste receptors ubiquitously expressed in the sinonasal cavity

Am J Rhinol Allergy. 2017 Mar 1;31(2):85-92. doi: 10.2500/ajra.2017.31.4424.


Background: Bitter taste receptors (T2R) have recently been demonstrated to contribute to sinonasal innate immunity. One T2R, T2R38, regulates mucosal defense against gram-negative organisms through nitric oxide (NO) production, which enhances mucociliary clearance and directly kills bacteria. To determine whether additional T2Rs contribute to this innate defense, we evaluated two other sinonasal T2Rs (T2R4 and T2R16) for regulation of NO production and expression within the human sinonasal cavity.

Methods: Primary human sinonasal cultures were stimulated with ligands specific to T2R4 and T2R16, colchicine and D-salicin, respectively. Cellular NO production was measured by intracellular 4-amino-5-methylamino-2',7'-difluorofluorescein diacetate fluorescence. For T2R expression mapping, sinonasal tissue was obtained from patients who underwent sinus surgery of the middle turbinate, maxillary sinus, ethmoid sinus, or sphenoid sinus. The expression of T2R4, T2R16, and T2R38 was evaluated by using immunofluorescence with validated antibodies.

Results: Similar to T2R38, T2R4 and T2R16 trigger NO production in a dose-dependent manner by using the canonical taste signaling pathway in response to stimulation with their respective ligands. All three receptors were expressed in the cilia of human epithelial cells of all regions in the sinonasal cavity.

Conclusion: These three T2Rs signaled through the same NO-mediated antimicrobial pathway and were ubiquitously expressed in the sinonasal epithelium. Additional T2Rs besides T2R38 may play a role in sinonasal immune defense. Mapping of T2R expression demonstrated the potential widespread role of T2Rs in sinonasal defense, whereas the genetics of these T2Rs may contribute to our understanding of specific endotypes of chronic rhinosinusitis and develop into novel therapeutic targets.

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Infections / immunology*
  • Bacteriolysis
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chronic Disease
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Mucociliary Clearance
  • Nasal Mucosa / immunology*
  • Nasal Mucosa / microbiology
  • Nitric Oxide / metabolism
  • Paranasal Sinuses / metabolism*
  • Primary Cell Culture
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / metabolism*
  • Rhinitis / immunology*
  • Sinusitis / immunology*
  • Taste*


  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • taste receptors, type 2
  • Nitric Oxide