Taste buds are the end organs of taste located in the gustatory papillae, which occur on the surface of the oral cavity. The goal of the present study was to establish a culture model mimicking the lingual taste bud of the mouse. To this end, three cell lines were employed: taste bud-derived cell lines (TBD cell lines), a lingual epithelial cell-derived cell line (20A cell line), and a mesenchymal cell-derived cell line (TMD cell line). TBD cells embedded in collagen gel formed three-dimensional clusters, which had an internal cavity equipped with a tight junction-like structure, a microvilluslike structure, and a laminin-positive layer surrounding the cluster. The cells with this epitheliumlike morphology expressed marker proteins of taste cells: gustducin and NCAM. TBD cells formed a monolayer on collagen gel when they were co-cultured with TMD cells. TBD, 20A, and TMD cell lines were maintained in a triple cell co-culture, in which TBD cells were pre-seeded as aggregates or in suspension on the collagen gel containing TMD cells, and 20A cells were laid over the TBD cells. TBD cells in the triple cell co-culture expressed NCAM. This result suggests that co-cultured TBD cells exhibited a characteristic of Type III taste cells. The culture model would be useful to study morphogenesis and functions of the gustatory organ.
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Vol. 28 • No. 9