HVEM ultrastructural analysis of mouse fungiform taste buds, cell types, and associated synapses

Microsc Res Tech. 1993 Oct 1;26(2):142-56. doi: 10.1002/jemt.1070260207.


We have used high voltage electron microscopy and computer-generated three-dimensional reconstructions from serial sections to elucidate the structure of taste bud cells and their associated synapses in fungiform taste buds of the mouse. Five fungiform taste buds (two of which were serially sectioned) were examined with the high-voltage electron microscope (HVEM). We identified the synaptic connections from taste cells onto sensory nerve fibers and classified the presynaptic taste cells based on previously established ultrastructural criteria. From those data we have distinguished dark, intermediate, and light cells in murine fungiform taste buds. Synapses in murine fungiform taste buds are fewer in number, but contain many more vesicles than synapses in either foliate or circumvallate taste buds. Synapses in mouse circumvallate and foliate taste buds typically contain a few to several synaptic vesicles per section, whereas fungiform synapses may have in excess of 100 vesicles per profile. The significance of these differences in the numbers of synapses and synaptic structure between fungiform and circumvallate/foliate synapses is not known. Based on the small number of synapses observed in fungiform taste buds, we speculate that fungiform taste buds have only a few cells transducing sensory stimuli at any given time. Alternatively, communication of sensory information from the taste receptor cells to the afferent nerve fibers may be mediated by some other mechanism(s) in addition to classical chemical synapses.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Microscopy, Electron / methods
  • Nerve Fibers / ultrastructure
  • Synapses / ultrastructure*
  • Taste Buds / ultrastructure*