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Sour Taste Sensors Identified

this work on taste, the investigators then examined whether cells expressing the sour receptor might be found anywhere else in the body, perhaps where sensing acidity might be important. They looked for the receptor in a large number of other tissues and discovered that it is expressed in a particular set of neurons surrounding the central canal of the spinal cord. Suspecting that these cells might be responsible for monitoring the level of acidity in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), the researchers recorded nerve signals from the cells in a slice of spinal cord tissue. When the surrounding solution turned acid, the cells became activated selectively, and immediately began firing nerve signals much more rapidly than when the solution was neutral or basic.

Discovery of the sour (acid) receptor in the central nervous system could help explain how the body monitors the quality of critical body fluids, Zuker said. For example, the body controls respiration in part by monitoring the acidity of the blood, since an increase in carbon dioxide dissolved in the blood increases acidity. "Defects in these blood-, CSF-, and brain-fluid-sensing systems may underlie a wide range of disorders," said Zuker.

Several intriguing questions can be pursued now that the sour-taste cells and candidate receptor have been found. One is how the PKD2L1 receptor is activated by acid stimuli. Another concerns the role of the neurons that innervate the central canal. And as Zuker pointed out, "This work also proved that salt-sensing cells, just like those mediating sweet, bitter, umami and sour, must function as independent sensors because the "sourless mice" have perfectly normal salt perception," he said. "So this opens an exciting experimental platform to molecularly dissect the last of the five basic taste qualities: salt taste."

Source: Eurekalert
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