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Characteristics of A-type voltage-gated K + currents expressed on sour-sensing type III taste receptor cells in mice.

Sour taste is detected by type III taste receptor cells that generate membrane depolarization with action potentials in response to HCl applied to the apical membranes. The shape of action potentials in type III cells exhibits larger afterhyperpolarization due to activation of transient A-type voltage-gated K+ currents. Although action potentials play an important role in neurotransmitter release, the electrophysiological features of A-type K+ currents in taste buds remain unclear. Here, we examined the electrophysiological properties of A-type K+ currents in mouse fungiform taste bud cells using in-situ whole-cell patch clamping. Type III cells were identified with SNAP-25 immunoreactivity and/or electrophysiological features of voltage-gated currents. Type III cells expressed A-type K+ currents which were completely inhibited by 10 mM TEA, whereas IP3 R3-immunoreactive type II cells did not. The half-maximal activation and steady-state inactivation of A-type K+ currents were 17.9 ± 4.5 (n = 17) and - 11.0 ± 5.7 (n = 17) mV, respectively, which are similar to the features of Kv3.3 and Kv3.4 channels (transient and high voltage-activated K+ channels). The recovery from inactivation was well fitted with a double exponential equation; the fast and slow time constants were 6.4 ± 0.6 ms and 0.76 ± 0.26 s (n = 6), respectively. RT-PCR experiments suggest that Kv3.3 and Kv3.4 mRNAs were detected at the taste bud level, but not at single-cell levels. As the phosphorylation of Kv3.3 and Kv3.4 channels generally leads to the modulation of cell excitability, neuromodulator-mediated A-type K+ channel phosphorylation likely affects the signal transduction of taste.

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