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Whole-Mount Staining, Visualization, and Analysis of Fungiform, Circumvallate, and Palate Taste Buds

Published: February 11th, 2021



1Anatomical Sciences and Neurobiology, University of Louisville

This paper describes methods for tissue preparation, staining, and analysis of whole fungiform, circumvallate, and palate taste buds that consistently yield whole and intact taste buds (including the nerve fibers that innervate them) and maintain the relationships between structures within taste buds and the surrounding papilla.

Taste buds are collections of taste-transducing cells specialized to detect subsets of chemical stimuli in the oral cavity. These transducing cells communicate with nerve fibers that carry this information to the brain. Because taste-transducing cells continuously die and are replaced throughout adulthood, the taste-bud environment is both complex and dynamic, requiring detailed analyses of its cell types, their locations, and any physical relationships between them. Detailed analyses have been limited by tongue-tissue heterogeneity and density that have significantly reduced antibody permeability. These obstacles require sectioning protocols that result in splitting taste buds across sections so that measurements are only approximated, and cell relationships are lost. To overcome these challenges, the methods described herein involve collecting, imaging, and analyzing whole taste buds and individual terminal arbors from three taste regions: fungiform papillae, circumvallate papillae, and the palate. Collecting whole taste buds reduces bias and technical variability and can be used to report absolute numbers for features including taste-bud volume, total taste-bud innervation, transducing-cell counts, and the morphology of individual terminal arbors. To demonstrate the advantages of this method, this paper provides comparisons of taste bud and innervation volumes between fungiform and circumvallate taste buds using a general taste-bud marker and a label for all taste fibers. A workflow for the use of sparse-cell genetic labeling of taste neurons (with labeled subsets of taste-transducing cells) is also provided. This workflow analyzes the structures of individual taste-nerve arbors, cell type numbers, and the physical relationships between cells using image analysis software. Together, these workflows provide a novel approach for tissue preparation and analysis of both whole taste buds and the complete morphology of their innervating arbors.

Taste buds are collections of 50-100 specialized epithelial cells that bind subsets of chemical-taste stimuli present in the oral cavity. Taste-transducing cells are generally thought to exist as types1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9, initially based on electron microscopy criteria that were later correlated with molecular markers. Type II cells express phospholipase C-beta 2 (PLC^....

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NOTE: All animals were cared for in accordance with the guidelines set by the U.S. Public Health Service Policy on the Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals and the NIH Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals. Phox2b-Cre mice (MMRRC strain 034613-UCD, NP91Gsat/Mmcd) or TrkBCreER mice (Ntrk2tm3.1(cre/ERT2)Ddg) were bred with tdTomato reporter mice (Ai14). AdvillinCreER47 were bred with Phox2b-flpo48 and Ai65. For 5-ethyn.......

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Staining of the lingual epithelium with antibodies to dsRed and keratin-8 (a general taste-bud marker) labeled both whole taste buds and all taste-bud innervation in Phox2b-Cre:tdTomato mice50,51 (Figure 3A). Imaging these taste buds from their pores to their bases gave the highest resolution x-y plane images (Figure 3A,B). The contour function of the pixel-based imaging program was used.......

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The development of an approach to consistently collect and stain whole taste buds from three oral cavity taste regions (fungiform, circumvallate, and the palate) provides significant improvements for analyzing taste-transducing cells, tracking newly incorporated cells, innervation, and relationships between these structures. In addition, it facilitates the localization of a potential secondary neuron marker both within or outside of a labeled population50. This is particularly relevant given that .......

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We thank Kavisca Kuruparanantha for her contributions to tissue staining and the imaging of circumvallate taste buds, Jennifer Xu for staining and imaging of innervation to the papilla, Kaytee Horn for animal care and genotyping, and Liqun Ma for her tissue staining of the soft-palate taste buds. This project was supported by R21 DC014857 and R01 DC007176 to R.F.K and F31 DC017660 to L.O.


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Name Company Catalog Number Comments
2,2,2-Tribromoethanol ACROS Organics AC421430100
2-Methylbutane ACROS 126470025
AffiniPure Fab Fragment Donkey Anti-Rabbit IgG Jackson ImmunoResearch 711-007-003 15.5μL/mL
Alexa Fluor® 647 AffiniPure Donkey Anti-Rat IgG Jackson Immuno Research 712-605-150 (1:500)
AutoQuant X3 software  Media Cybernetics
Blunt End Forceps Fine Science Tools  FST 91100-12
Click-iT™ Plus EdU Cell Proliferation Kit Molecular Probes C10637 Follow kit instructions 
Coverglass Marienfeld 107242
Cytokeratin-8 Developmental Studies Hybridoma Bank (DSHB), (RRID: AB_531826)  Troma1 supernatant (1:50, store at 4°C)
Dissection Scissors (coarse) Roboz RS-5619
Dissection Scissors (fine) Moria MC19B
Donkey anti-Rabbit IgG (H+L) Highly Cross-Adsorbed Secondary Antibody, Alexa Fluor 488 ThermoFisher Scientific A21206 (1:500)
Donkey anti-Rabbit, Alexa Fluor® 555 ThermoFisher Scientific A31572 (1:500)
DyLight™ 405 AffiniPure Fab Fragment Bovine Anti-Goat IgG Jackson Immuno Research 805-477-008 (1:500)
Fluoromount G Southern Biotech 0100-01
Glass slides Fisher Scientific (Superfrost Plus Miscroscope Slides) 12-550-15
Goat anti-Car4 R&D Systems  AF2414 (1:500)
Imaris  Bitplane  pixel-based image analysis software
Neurolucida 360 + Explorer MBF Biosciences 3D vector based image analysis software
Normal Donkey Serum Jackson Immuno Research 017-000-121
Normal Rabbit Serum  Equitech-Bio, Inc SR30
Olympus FV1000 (multi-Argon laser with wavelengths 458, 488, 515 and additional HeNe lasers emitting 543 and 633)
Paraformaldehyde EMD PX0055-3 4% in 0.1M PB
Rabbit anti-dsRed Living Colors DsRed Polyclonal Antibody; Clontech Clontech Laboratories, Inc. (632496) 632496 (1:500)
Rabbit anti-PLCβ2  Santa Cruz Biotechnology Cat# sc-206 (1:500)
Sodium Phosphate Dibasic Anhydrous Fisher Scientific BP332-500
Sodium Phosphate Monobasic Fisher Scientific BP330-500
tert-Amyl alcohol Aldrich Chemical Company 8.06193
Tissue Molds Electron Microscopy Sciences 70180
Tissue-Tek® O.C.T. Compound Sakura 4583
Triton X-100 BIO-RAD #161-0407
Zenon™ Alexa Fluor™ 555 Rabbit IgG Labeling Kit ThermoFisher Scientific Z25305 Follow kit instructions 

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