Regeneration of taste buds after reinnervation of a denervated tongue papilla by a normally nongustatory nerve

J Comp Neurol. 1981 Aug 10;200(3):309-14. doi: 10.1002/cne.902000302.


Taste buds degenerate and disappear after transection of their sensory nerve supply, and they differentiate anew from epithelial cells (e.g., lingual) following regeneration of sensory but not motor or autonomic axons. A controversy exists as to whether only gustatory sensory nerves can cause buds to reform or whether any sensory nerve can perform this function. This issue arose because the results of cross-innervation studies revealed a specificity whereas grafting data demonstrated a nonspecificity. A retest of specificity in the cross-reinnervation situation was performed by reinnervating the denervated vallate papilla of adult rat tongue with a sensory branch of the vagus nerve that is not normally gustatory. It was found that taste buds disappeared and remained lost from acutely and chronically denervated papilla. However, some buds were found 90-100 days after reinnervation by the normally nongustatory vagus nerve branch. Transection of the regenerated vagus nerve resulted in the loss of innervation and the degeneration of taste buds from reinnervated papilla indicating that this nerve had supported buds. These results show that a normally nongustatory nerve can induce the formation of taste buds after its axons grow into appropriate tissue. It appears that the ability to support taste buds is a nonspecific, rather than a specific, property of sensory nerve.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / ultrastructure
  • Glossopharyngeal Nerve / anatomy & histology
  • Male
  • Nerve Degeneration
  • Nerve Regeneration*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred F344
  • Taste Buds / anatomy & histology*
  • Tongue / innervation*
  • Vagus Nerve / anatomy & histology*