Fingerprinting taste buds: Intermediate filaments and their implication for taste bud formation

M. Witt*, K. Reutter, D. Ganchrow, J. R. Ganchrow

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Intermediate filaments in taste organs of terrestrial (human and chick) as well as aquatic (Xenopus laevis) species were detected using immunohistochemistry and electron microscopy. During development, the potential importance of the interface between the taste bud primordium and non-gustatory, adjacent tissues is evidenced by the distinct immunoreactivity of a subpopulation of taste bud cells for cytokeratins and vimentin. In human foetuses, the selective molecular marker for taste bud primordia, cytokeratin 20, is not detectable prior to the ingrowth of nerve fibres into the epithelium, which supports the hypothesis that nerve fibres are necessary for initiating taste bud development. Another intermediate filament protein, vimentin, occurs in derivatives of mesoderm, but usually not in epithelium. In humans, vimentin immunoreactivity is expressed mainly in border (marginal) epithelial cells of taste bud primordia, while in chick, vimentin expression occurs in most taste bud cells, whereas non-gustatory epithelium is vimentin immunonegative. Our chick data suggest a relationship between the degree of vimentin expression and taste bud cell proliferation especially during the perihatching period. It is suggested that surrounding epithelial cells (human) and mesenchymal cells (chick) may be contributing sources of developing taste buds. The dense perinuclear network of intermediate filaments especially in dark (i.e. non-sensory) taste disc cells of Xenopus indicates that vimentin filaments also might be associated with cells of non-gustatory function. These results indicate that the mechanisms of taste bud differentiation from source tissues may differ among vertebrates of different taxa.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1233-1237
Number of pages5
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1401
StatePublished - 29 Sep 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Chick
  • Cytokeratin 20
  • Foetal development
  • Human
  • Taste bud
  • Vimentin


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