The Laryngoscope

The genetics of the bitter taste receptor T2R38 in upper airway innate immunity and implications for chronic rhinosinusitis.

PMID 27650657


Chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS) refractory to therapeutic intervention may involve a particularly resistant infection known as a bacterial biofilm. Critical to biofilm formation is the microbial process of quorum sensing whereby microbes secrete factors that regulate the expression of microbial genes involved in biofilm formation, persistence, and virulence. Here, we review recent work demonstrating that the bitter taste receptor T2R38, expressed on the apical surface of the sinonasal epithelium, serves a sentinel role in eavesdropping on microbial quorum-sensing communications and regulates localized innate biocidal defenses. Furthermore, studies investigating whether cilia are necessary for T2R38 expression and function in the upper airway are presented. Primary human sinonasal air-liquid interface cultures were used to elucidate cellular pathways responsive to quorum-sensing molecules, whereas clinical studies investigated the contribution of T2R38 polymorphisms to recalcitrant chronic rhinosinusitis. T2R38 is stimulated by acyl-homoserine lactones, gram-negative quorum-sensing molecules, and subsequently activates nitric oxide-dependent innate immune responses. The formation of mature cilia is necessary for T2R38 expression and function, and polymorphisms that underlie T2R38 functionality appear to be involved in susceptibility to upper respiratory infection and recalcitrant CRS. Taste receptors are emerging as critical components of early-phase respiratory innate immunity, detecting molecules used by microbes to communicate and stimulating localized host defenses. Genetic polymorphisms are very common within the taste receptors, and recent linkage studies have demonstrated associations of taste receptor genetics with CRS. Lastly, ciliogenesis, which is often impacted in CRS, is critical for the functional expression of T2R38. N/A. Laryngoscope, 127:44-51, 2017.