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The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience

Expanded terminal fields of gustatory nerves accompany embryonic BDNF overexpression in mouse oral epithelia.


PMID 25568132

Abstract

Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is expressed in gustatory epithelia and is required for gustatory neurons to locate and innervate their correct target during development. When BDNF is overexpressed throughout the lingual epithelium, beginning embryonically, chorda tympani fibers are misdirected and innervate inappropriate targets, leading to a loss of taste buds. The remaining taste buds are hyperinnervated, demonstrating a disruption of nerve/target matching in the tongue. We tested the hypothesis here that overexpression of BDNF peripherally leads to a disrupted terminal field organization of nerves that carry taste information to the brainstem. The chorda tympani, greater superficial petrosal, and glossopharyngeal nerves were labeled in adult wild-type (WT) mice and in adult mice in which BDNF was overexpressed (OE) to examine the volume and density of their central projections in the nucleus of the solitary tract. We found that the terminal fields of the chorda tympani and greater superficial petrosal nerves and overlapping fields that included these nerves in OE mice were at least 80% greater than the respective field volumes in WT mice. The shapes of terminal fields were similar between the two groups; however, the density and spread of labels were greater in OE mice. Unexpectedly, there were also group-related differences in chorda tympani nerve function, with OE mice showing a greater relative taste response to a concentration series of sucrose. Overall, our results show that disruption in peripheral innervation patterns of sensory neurons have significant effects on peripheral nerve function and central organization of their terminal fields.

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