The age-related changes in distribution of α-gustducin–immunoreactive structures in the larynx of Sprague-Dawley rats were studied.Methods:
For this purpose, tissues obtained from 12 male rats ranging in age from 5 to 21 weeks were compared with respect to the distribution and morphology of laryngeal taste buds immunoreactive for α-gustducin, the α-subunit of a taste cell–specific G protein.Results:
Three different morphological types of α-gustducin–immunoreactive structures were seen: typical gemmal forms, clusters composed of 2 or 3 cells, and isolated immunoreactive cells not associated with taste buds. α-Gustducin–immunoreactive structures were most abundant in the epiglottis in all age groups. α-Gustducin–immunoreactive cells in rats seem to be located along the lateral food channels, in which they may come in contact with food. The total number of these α-gustducin–immunoreactive structures did not show any age-related changes, but the percentage of solitary immunoreactive cells in 5-week-old rats was significantly larger than the percentages in 8-, 14-, and 21-week-old animals.Conclusions:
Solitary α-gustducin–immunoreactive cells, which are abundant in 5-week-old rats but are found in fewer numbers along the base of the epiglottis in mature rats, may be nociceptic in function, whereas the chemosensory clusters or buds that contain α-gustducin–positive cells and are distributed along the lateral food channels on the pharyngeal side of the larynx may have a role in gustatory reception.