An examination of the fine structure of the taste buds in the rabbit was undertaken. Gustatory epithelium was fixed in OsO4 or 1 per cent KMnO4 solution, containing polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP). Thick sections were examined in the phase microscope and contiguous sections prepared for the electron microscope.
The bud contains two types of cells, gustatory receptors and sustentacular cells. The receptors are characterized by a dark nucleus and densely granular cytoplasm. The apical processes bear numerous microvilli which extend into the taste pore. Imbedded between the microvilli there is a dense substance, which is also present in the apical cytoplasm of the receptors. The sustentacular cells contain a large pale nucleus and less dense cytoplasm. Their basal surfaces rest upon a basement membrane.
The subepithelial nerve plexuses comprise the fibers which innervate the gustatory receptors. The nerve fibers vary in diameter from 500 A to 0.3 µ, and are ensheathed by Schwann cells. The intragemmal fibers enter the taste bud between adjacent cells, and are ensheathed by the plasma membranes of the supporting cell until they synapse upon the gustatory cell. The synaptic terminals contain synaptic vesicles, which at this junction reside in the postsynaptic element. This observation is discussed with reference to synapses described elsewhere in the nervous system.