Major differences in the proportion of amino acid fiber types transmitting taste information from oral and extraoral regions in the channel catfish

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The present study investigates for the first time in any teleost the amino acid specificity and sensitivity of single glossopharyngeal (cranial nerve IX) fibers that innervate taste buds within the oropharyngeal cavity. These results are contrasted with similar data obtained from facial (cranial nerve VII) fibers that innervate extraoral taste buds. The major finding is that functional differences are clearly evident between taste fibers of these two cranial nerves. Catfish possess the most extensive distribution of taste buds found in vertebrates. Taste buds on the external body surface are exclusively innervated by VII, whereas IX, along with the vagus (X), innervate the vast majority of taste buds within the oropharyngeal cavity. Responses to the l-isomers of alanine (Ala), arginine (Arg), and proline (Pro), the three most stimulatory amino acids that bind to independent taste receptors, were obtained from 90 single VII and 64 single IX taste fibers. This study confirmed a previous investigation that the amino acid responsive VII fibers consist of two major groups, the Ala and Arg clusters containing taste fibers having thresholds in the ηM range. In contrast, the present study indicates the amino acid responsive IX taste system is dominated by taste fibers responsive to Pro and to Pro and Arg, respectively, has a reduced percentage of Ala fibers, and is less sensitive than VII. The present electrophysiological results are consistent with previous experiments, indicating that the extraoral taste system is essential for appetitive behavior, whereas oropharyngeal taste buds are critical for consummatory behavior.

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Journal of neurophysiology

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