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TUNEL Staining And Electron Microscopy Studies Of Apoptotic Changes In The Guinea Pig Vallate Taste Cells After Unilateral Glossopharyngeal Denervation

Y. Huang, K.-S. Lu
Published 2001 · Biology, Medicine

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On the basis of our previous report that unilateral glossopharyngeal neurectomy in the guinea pig resulted in degeneration and disappearance of taste buds in ipsilateral vallate papillae (Huang and Lu 1996), it is reasonable to speculate that gustatory denervation may enhance apoptosis of taste bud cells, with taste buds decreasing in number and ultimately disappearing after neurectomy. We were therefore determined to investigate apoptosis of taste bud cells in guinea pig vallate papillae after unilateral glossopharyngeal neurectomy using both terminal deoxynuleotidyl transferase (TdT)-mediated dUTP nick-end labelling (TUNEL) at the light microscopic level and by conventional electron microscopy. A total of 34 adult guinea pigs were unilaterally glossopharyngeal-neurectomized and sacrificed at 3, 6, 12 h and 1, 3 and 7 days after surgery. The results revealed that only a very few TUNEL-positive nuclei indicating apoptosis were present in normal taste buds, but in surgically denervated papillae, they increased in number from 6 h–12 h after surgery, reached at peak on day 1 and then gradually decreased. In apoptotic cells from normal taste buds, electron microscopy revealed condensation of the chromatin against the nuclear envelope, changes in the nuclear envelope, and fragmentation of the nucleus, but the integrity of the plasma membrane and organelles was maintained. Neurectomized taste cells were also characterized by condensed and fragmentary nuclei, compactness of the cytoplasmic organelles, and the appearance of pedunculated protuberances on the cell surface. From these observations, we conclude that: (1) glossopharyngeal neurectomy enhanced apoptosis of vallate taste bud cells in guinea pig; (2) appropriate gustatory nerve innervation is an essential component for the maintenance of the taste bud, and may play a role in apoptosis of taste cells.
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