Publication Date



Open access

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


Neuroscience (Medicine)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Vladen Z. Slepak

Second Committee Member

Richard L. Rotundo

Third Committee Member

Carlos T. Moraes

Fourth Committee Member

Stephen D. Roper

Fifth Committee Member

Timothy S. McClintock


cAMP is a second messenger in a variety of chemosensory receptors, including taste buds and glucose-sensitive pancreatic beta-cells. cAMP is modulated during taste transduction, yet the significance of cAMP changes and the taste cell types in which they occur (Type I glial-like; Type II Receptor; Type III Presynaptic) remain unclear. I developed techniques to image real-time changes in intracellular cAMP in taste cells using genetically-encoded cAMP reporters. This FRET-based reporter permits one to measure single-cell cAMP levels with excellent spatial and temporal resolution (Zaccolo & Pozzan 2002, Science 295:1711). Using a biolistic approach I have transfected rat fungiform taste buds with cAMP reporter plasmids. Focal application of bitter tastant to living fungiform tastebuds in situ produced a decrease in [cAMP]i within individual taste receptor cells. These results are qualitatively similar to previous biochemical measurements from homogenized taste tissue (Yan et al. 2001, Am J Physiol Cell Physiol 280:C742) but are now allowing us to examine the cAMP response in individual, identified cells. I next explored the effect of elevating cAMP on calcium levels, using Fura-2 imaging of isolated mouse vallate taste buds. Elevating [cAMP]i in taste buds evoked calcium responses in presynaptic/Type III taste cells, which do not express GAD1. cAMP induced responses were generated by calcium influx. Using pharmacological antagonists, I determined that the calcium influx triggered by cAMP is through L-type calcium channels, whereas influx following depolarization is primarily through P/Q-type calcium channels. Consistent with these data, single cell RT-PCR showed that the L-type subunit (alpha 1C) was expressed primarily in GAD-negative Presynaptic cells, while the P/Q-type (alpha 1A) was expressed in all Presynaptic cells. Thus, cAMP may modulate the function of synapses in some taste cells. Finally, we have developed a mouse strain expressing a cAMP reporter in a tissue-specific and tetracycline-inducible manner. We crossed this mouse with another strain expressing tet-activator in beta cells of the pancreas. Such islets responded to increasing concentrations of glucose (5.5 to 35mM) with an increase in cAMP levels. The half maximum of 9mM glucose for the cAMP response corresponds well with reported glucose concentrations that elicit insulin release from whole islets. Stimulating pancreatic islets with glucose is known to drive calcium influx into beta-cells. When we simultaneously imaged both second messengers, we found that cAMP changes precede and are independent of calcium changes. In conclusion, these studies have outlined novel potential functions for cAMP signaling in the transduction of both primary tastant and plasma glucose information. In addition, the flexibility of the tet-system will enable cAMP reporter expression in numerous cell types, including those which mediate gustatory transduction.


Cellular Signaling; Signal Transduction; Cellular Imaging; Taste; Islet; Chemosensory; Calcium; CAMP