The microenvironment at chemical receptor sites is important for ligand-receptor interaction as it can influence the entry, residence time or exit of odorant and sapid molecules. The perireceptor milieu at apical taste cell microvilli consists of taste pore mucus and secretions from salivary glands. The majority of taste buds are sheltered in epithelial folds of the foliate and circumvallate papillae where saliva is provided predominantly by the lingual von Ebner's glands (VEGs). To investigate possible saliva-tastant interactions, we have characterized a prominent 18 kDa secretory protein expressed in human, rat and pig VEGs. The human and rat VEG proteins share 60% sequence identity and, by virtue of their protein and gene structure, can be assigned to the lipocalin superfamily of lipophilic ligand carrier proteins. VEG proteins might function as transporters of hydrophobic molecules, for example bitter substances, like the nasal odorant-binding proteins that belong to the same protein family. Because binding experiments using various bitter substances have so far failed, and in light of the species-specific expression, other functions for VEG proteins must be considered. These include the protection of taste epithelia, pheromone transport and lipid binding.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Pages (from-to)||167-180; discussion 180-185|
|Journal||Ciba Foundation symposium|
|State||Published - 1993|
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