Expression of the neural cell adhesion molecule (NCAM) and polysialic acid during taste bud degeneration and regeneration

J Comp Neurol. 1994 Sep 8;347(2):187-96. doi: 10.1002/cne.903470204.


Taste receptor cells are replaced throughout life, accompanied by continuing synaptogenesis between newly formed taste cells and first-order gustatory fibers. The neural cell adhesion molecule (NCAM) is expressed by a subset of taste cells in adult rodents and appears on gustatory nerve fibers during development prior to differentiation of the taste buds. We employed antibodies against the extracellular domain of the NCAM polypeptide (mAb 3F4) and against polysialic acid (PSA) residues found on embryonic forms of NCAM (mAb 5A5) to investigate the relationship between the expression of these molecules and the innervation of taste buds in adult rats. In unoperated rats, anti-NCAM recognized a subset of cells within the vallate taste buds and also the fibers of the glossopharyngeal (IXth) nerve, including those innervating the gustatory epithelium. Taste bud cells did not express PSA but mAb 5A5 immunoreactivity was observed on some fibers of the IXth nerve, including a few that entered the taste buds. Bilateral crush of the IXth nerve resulted in the loss of NCAM expression from the gustatory epithelium within 8 days. As IXth nerve fibers reinnervated the epithelium, NCAM expression was seen first in the nerve, followed by increased expression in the epithelium as the taste cells differentiated from their precursors. PSA expression by fibers of the IXth nerve did not return to normal until well after the regeneration of the vallate taste buds. The present results demonstrate that taste cell expression of NCAM is dependent upon innervation by the IXth nerve and that NCAM expression appears in the nerve prior to its expression in the differentiating epithelium during regeneration.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules, Neuronal / biosynthesis*
  • Epithelial Cells
  • Epithelium / metabolism
  • Female
  • Glossopharyngeal Nerve / metabolism
  • Male
  • Nerve Degeneration / physiology*
  • Nerve Regeneration / physiology*
  • Polysaccharides / biosynthesis*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Sialic Acids / biosynthesis*
  • Taste Buds / physiology*


  • Cell Adhesion Molecules, Neuronal
  • Polysaccharides
  • Sialic Acids
  • polysialic acid