Determining the physiological roles of newly identified signaling pathways in mouse taste cells
Kathryn Medler Principal Investigator
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The sense of taste is used by all organisms to determine whether potential food items will be ingested or rejected and is critical for an organism's survival. The taste system is made up of multiple cell types that detect chemicals in food and then send a specific signal describing that stimulus to the brain. The goal of this project is to characterize recently identified signaling pathway in taste cells that contributes to the detection of taste stimuli. Characterization of these signaling pathways will provide a better understanding of how the taste system works and how the brain gathers information about its surroundings. <br/><br/> A combination of calcium imaging, molecular biology, and immunocytochemistry will be used to better understand these recently identified signaling pathways and define their physiological role in the formation of taste signals that are sent to the brain. The findings that emerge from this project will improve understanding of how taste receptor cells that are located on the tongue can detect chemicals in food and translate that information into a signal that the brain can understand. This information is critical for two reasons: 1) understanding how chemicals are detected from the environment has important implications in feeding behaviors including the regulation of food intake, and 2) information about the physiology of these neuronal cells will translate into a better understanding of how signaling pathways function in all neurons. <br/><br/> This broader impacts of this project include provision of research and training opportunities for multiple graduate and undergraduate students, including both minorities and women. Students will be trained in molecular biology and immunocytochemical techniques as well as live cell calcium imaging and patch clamp analysis of taste cells. These skills will provide students with the ability to answer research questions (either in the taste field or elsewhere) using a multi-faceted approach.