Glutamate: Tastant and Neuromodulator in Taste Buds1–3

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In taste buds, glutamate plays a double role as a gustatory stimulus and neuromodulator. The detection of glutamate as a tastant involves several G protein-coupled receptors, including the heterodimer taste receptor type 1, member 1 and 3 as well as metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluR1 and mGluR4). Both receptor types participate in the detection of glutamate as shown with knockout animals and selective antagonists. At the basal part of taste buds, ionotropic glutamate receptors [N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) and non-NMDA] are expressed and participate in the modulation of the taste signal before its transmission to the brain. Evidence suggests that glutamate has an efferent function on taste cells and modulates the release of other neurotransmitters such as serotonin and ATP. This short article reviews the recent developments in the field with regard to glutamate receptors involved in both functions as well as the influence of glutamate on the taste signal.

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