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PLoS genetics

β-Catenin Signaling Biases Multipotent Lingual Epithelial Progenitors to Differentiate and Acquire Specific Taste Cell Fates.


PMID 26020789

Abstract

Continuous taste bud cell renewal is essential to maintain taste function in adults; however, the molecular mechanisms that regulate taste cell turnover are unknown. Using inducible Cre-lox technology, we show that activation of β-catenin signaling in multipotent lingual epithelial progenitors outside of taste buds diverts daughter cells from a general epithelial to a taste bud fate. Moreover, while taste buds comprise 3 morphological types, β-catenin activation drives overproduction of primarily glial-like Type I taste cells in both anterior fungiform (FF) and posterior circumvallate (CV) taste buds, with a small increase in Type II receptor cells for sweet, bitter and umami, but does not alter Type III sour detector cells. Beta-catenin activation in post-mitotic taste bud precursors likewise regulates cell differentiation; forced activation of β-catenin in these Shh+ cells promotes Type I cell fate in both FF and CV taste buds, but likely does so non-cell autonomously. Our data are consistent with a model where β-catenin signaling levels within lingual epithelial progenitors dictate cell fate prior to or during entry of new cells into taste buds; high signaling induces Type I cells, intermediate levels drive Type II cell differentiation, while low levels may drive differentiation of Type III cells.

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