Monosodium glutamate but not linoleic acid differentially activates gustatory neurons in the rat geniculate ganglion

Joseph M. Breza, Kathleen S. Curtis, Robert J. Contreras

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19 Scopus citations


To date, only one study has examined responses to monosodium glutamate (MSG) from gustatory neurons in the rat geniculate ganglion and none to free fatty acids. Accordingly, we recorded single-cell responses from geniculate ganglion gustatory neurons in anesthetized male rats to MSG and linoleic acid (LA), as well as to sucrose, NaCl, citric acid, and quinine hydrochloride. None of the 52 neurons responded to any LA concentration. In contrast, both narrowly tuned groups of gustatory neurons (sucrose specialists and NaCl specialists) responded to MSG, as did 2 of the broadly tuned groups (NaCl generalistI and acid generalists). NaCl-generalistII neurons responded only to the highest MSG concentration and only at low rates. No neuron type responded best to MSG; rather, responses to 0.1 M MSG were significantly less than those to NaCl for Na+-sensitive neurons and to sucrose for sucrose specialists. Interestingly, most Na+ -sensitive neurons responded to 0.3 M MSG at levels comparable with those to 0.1 M NaCl, whereas sucrose specialists responded to 0.1 M MSG despite being unresponsive to NaCl. These results suggest that the stimulatory effect of MSG involves activation of sweet- or salt-sensitive receptors. We propose that glutamate underlies the MSG response of sucrose specialists, whereas Na+-sensitive neurons respond to the sodium cation. For the latter neuron groups, the large glutamate anion may reduce the driving force for sodium through epithelial channels on taste cell membranes. The observed concentration-dependent responses are consistent with this idea, as are cross-adaptation studies using 0.1 M concentrations of MSG and NaCl in subsets of these Na+-sensitive neurons.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)833-846
Number of pages14
JournalChemical Senses
Issue number9
StatePublished - Nov 2007


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