TRPM5, a cation channel of the TRP superfamily, is highly expressed in taste buds of the tongue, where it has a key role in the perception of sweet, umami and bitter tastes1,2. Activation of TRPM5 occurs downstream of the activation of G-protein-coupled taste receptors and is proposed to generate a depolarizing potential in the taste receptor cells2. Factors that modulate TRPM5 activity are therefore expected to influence taste. Here we show that TRPM5 is a highly temperature-sensitive, heat-activated channel: inward TRPM5 currents increase steeply at temperatures between 15 and 35°C. TRPM4, a close homologue of TRPM5, shows similar temperature sensitivity. Heat activation is due to a temperature-dependent shift of the activation curve, in analogy to other thermosensitive TRP channels3. Moreover, we show that increasing temperature between 15 and 35°C markedly enhances the gustatory nerve response to sweet compounds in wild-type but not in Trpm5 knockout mice. The strong temperature sensitivity of TRPM5 may underlie known effects of temperature on perceived taste in humans4-6, including enhanced sweetness perception at high temperatures and 'thermal taste', the phenomenon whereby heating or cooling of the tongue evoke sensations of taste in the absence of tastants7.
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