Developmental time course of peripheral cross-modal sensory interaction of the trigeminal and gustatory systems

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Few sensory modalities appear to engage in cross-modal interactions within the peripheral nervous system, making the integrated relationship between the peripheral gustatory and trigeminal systems an ideal model for investigating cross-sensory support. The present study examined taste system anatomy following unilateral transection of the trigeminal lingual nerve (LX) while leaving the gustatory chorda tympani intact. At 10, 25, or 65 days of age, rats underwent LX with outcomes assessed following various survival times. Fungiform papillae were classified by morphological feature using surface analysis. Taste bud volumes were calculated from histological sections of the anterior tongue. Differences in papillae morphology were evident by 2 days post-transection of P10 rats and by 8 days post in P25 rats. When transected at P65, animals never exhibited statistically significant morphological changes. After LX at P10, fewer taste buds were present on the transected side following 16 and 24 days survival time and remaining taste buds were smaller than on the intact side. In P25 and P65 animals, taste bud volumes were reduced on the denervated side by 8 and 16 days postsurgery, respectively. By 50 days post-transection, taste buds of P10 animals had not recovered in size; however, all observed changes in papillae morphology and taste buds subsided in P25 and P65 rats. Results indicate that LX impacts taste receptor cells and alters epithelial morphology of fungiform papillae, particularly during early development. These findings highlight dual roles for the lingual nerve in the maintenance of both gustatory and non-gustatory tissues on the anterior tongue. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Develop Neurobiol 76: 626–641, 2016

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