Leptin is a hormone that regulates food intake, energy expenditure and body weight. Our previous studies have demonstrated that the taste organ is a new peripheral target for leptin in mice. Leptin selectively inhibits the responses of taste nerves and receptor cells to sweet substances without affecting responses to sour, salty, and bitter substances. Still, there is no convincing evidence for the existence of leptin receptors (Ob-Rs) in taste receptor cells, especially the functional isoform Ob-Rb. We investigated the expression of 5 different Ob-R isoforms (a-e) and 6 STAT (signal transducers and activators of transcription) members in mouse taste cells. STATs are considered to be involved in the leptin signaling via Ob-Rb. Semiquantitative RT-PCR analysis showed that Ob-Rb was expressed in the taste buds of the fungiform and circumvallate papillae, but not so clearly in the surrounding epithelial tissue. The expression pattern among the three different tissues was similar to that of the taste cell specific G-protein, a-gustducin. The other Ob-R isoforms were widely detected in either the taste papillae or the epithelial tissue. Among 6 STAT members, STAT3 showed the highest relative abundance of mRNA in the taste buds. Consistently, in situ hybridization analysis showed that while Ob-Rb and STAT3 signals were detected in some taste bud cells, the signals were not clearly observed in the epithelial tissue cells. In conclusion, the present study provides evidence of the existence of the leptin receptor, Ob-Rb, and STAT3 in the mouse taste bud cells. This finding further confirms the involvement of leptin in the control of taste sensitivities to sweet substances in mice.
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