Taste preferences were studied in two groups of rats depleted of vitamin A by dietary restriction. One group received sufficient vitamin A acid supplement to maintain normal growth. The other group was repleted with vitamin A alcohol after the classical deficiency symptoms had appeared; this group gradually lost normal preferences for NaCl and aversion to quinine solutions during depletion. Vitamin A alcohol repletion tended to restore taste preferences to normal. In contrast, the group receiving vitamin A acid showed normal taste preferences throughout the depletion period. When the vitamin A acid supplement was removed taste preferences became abnormal and returned to normal when vitamin A acid was restored. Peripheral gustatory neural activity of depleted rats without any form of vitamin A was less than normal both at rest and when the tongue was stimulated with NaCl solutions. Histological examination showed keratin infiltrating the pores of the taste buds. Accessory glandular tissues were atrophied and debris filled the trenches of the papillae. It is concluded that vitamin A acid can provide the vitamin A required for normal taste, as contrasted with its inability to maintain visual function. It is suggested that the effect of vitamin A is exerted at the receptor level, as a result of its role in the biosynthesis of mucopolysaccharides, which have been recently identified in the pore area of taste buds, as well as being present in the various secretions of the oral cavity.

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