Immunohistochemical, electrophysiological, and electron microscopical study of rat fungiform taste buds after regeneration of chorda tympani through the non-gustatory lingual nerve

J Comp Neurol. 1996 Apr 15;367(4):491-502. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1096-9861(19960415)367:4<491::AID-CNE2>3.0.CO;2-#.


The sensory innervation of fungiform papillae on the rat dorsal tongue is derived from branches of two cranial nerves: the lingual branch of the trigeminal nerve which provides somatosensory innervation and the chorda tympani (CT) branch of the facial nerve, which provides innervation to the taste buds. Removal of the CT results in degeneration of the taste buds. Removal of both nerves results in reduction in size of fungiform papillae and an altered pattern of keratinization in its epithelium. Regeneration of nerves to the epithelium restores the pre-operative condition. Thus, in addition to their sensory functions, both the CT and lingual seem to exert trophic effects on the phenotypic expression of epithelial cells in the fungiform papillae. We severed both the CT and lingual nerves in rats and sutured the proximal stump of the CT to the distal stump of the lingual to promote regeneration of the CT along the lingual nerve pathway. At the same time, we prevented the proximal stump of the lingual from regenerating into the tongue. Our purpose was to determine whether and how the innervation pattern of the regenerated taste bud might be different from normal under these experimental conditions. We found that reinnervation by the CT through the lingual nerve occurs, that this restores the anatomical and functional integrity of the fungiform taste buds and papillae, and that some papillae, but not all, were richly innervated with subgemmal, extragemmal, and perigemmal neuron-specific enolase, calcitonin gene-related peptide, substance P, and neurokinin A-positive fibers. Moreover, responses to taste stimuli were recorded electrophysiologically from the CT.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide / metabolism
  • Chorda Tympani Nerve / physiology*
  • Electrophysiology
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Lingual Nerve / physiology*
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Nerve Regeneration / physiology*
  • Neurokinin A / metabolism
  • Phosphopyruvate Hydratase / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Substance P / metabolism
  • Taste Buds / physiology*
  • Taste Buds / ultrastructure


  • Substance P
  • Neurokinin A
  • Phosphopyruvate Hydratase
  • Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide