Sodium-Taste Cells Require Skn-1a for Generation and Share Molecular Features with Sweet, Umami, and Bitter Taste Cells

eNeuro. 2020 Dec 4;7(6):ENEURO.0385-20.2020. doi: 10.1523/ENEURO.0385-20.2020. Print 2020 Nov/Dec.


Taste buds are maintained via continuous turnover of taste bud cells derived from local epithelial stem cells. A transcription factor Skn-1a (also known as Pou2f3) is required for the generation of sweet, umami (savory), and bitter taste cells that commonly express TRPM5 and CALHM ion channels. Here, we demonstrate that sodium-taste cells distributed only in the anterior oral epithelia and involved in evoking salty taste also require Skn-1a for their generation. We discovered taste cells in fungiform papillae and soft palate that show similar but not identical molecular feature with sweet, umami, and bitter taste-mediated Type II cells. This novel cell population expresses Plcb2, Itpr3, Calhm3, Skn-1a, and ENaCα (also known as Scnn1a) encoding the putative amiloride-sensitive (AS) salty taste receptor but lacks Trpm5 and Gnat3Skn-1a-deficient taste buds are predominantly composed of putative non-sensory Type I cells and sour-sensing Type III cells, whereas wild-type taste buds include Type II (i.e., sweet, umami, and bitter taste) cells and sodium-taste cells. Both Skn-1a and Calhm3-deficient mice have markedly decreased chorda tympani nerve responses to sodium chloride, and those decreased responses are attributed to the loss of the AS salty taste response. Thus, AS salty taste is mediated by Skn-1a-dependent taste cells, whereas amiloride-insensitive salty taste is mediated largely by Type III sour taste cells and partly by bitter taste cells. Our results demonstrate that Skn-1a regulates differentiation toward all types of taste cells except sour taste cells.

Keywords: Skn-1a; salty; sodium taste; taste cell.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Sodium
  • Taste Buds*
  • Taste*


  • Sodium