Voltage-dependent membrane currents of cells dissociated from tongues of larval tiger salamanders (Ambystoma tigrinum) were studied using whole-cell and single-channel patch-clamp techniques. Nongustatory epithelial cells displayed only passive membrane properties. Cells dissociated from taste buds, presumed to be gustatory receptor cells, generated both inward and outward currents in response to depolarizing voltage steps from a holding potential of -60 or -80 mV. Almost all taste cells displayed a transient inward current that activated at -30 mV, reached a peak between 0 and +10 mV and rapidly inactivated. This inward current was blocked by tetrodotoxin (TTX) or by substitution of choline for Na+ in the bath solution, indicating that it was a Na+ current. Approximately 60% of the taste cells also displayed a sustained inward current which activated slowly at about -30 mV and reached a peak at 0 to +10 mV. The amplitude of the slow inward current was larger when Ca2+ was replaced by Ba2+ and it was blocked by bath applied CO2+, indicating it was a Ca2+ current. Delayed outward K+ currents were observed in all taste cells although in about 10% of the cells, they were small and activated only at voltages more depolarized than +10 mV. Normally, K+ currents activated at -40 mV and usually showed some inactivation during a 25-ms voltage step. The inactivating component of outward current was not observed at holding potentials more depolarized -40 mV. The outward currents were blocked by tetraethylammonium chloride (TEA) and BaCl2 in the bath or by substitution of Cs+ for K+ in the pipette solution. Both transient and noninactivating components of outward current were partially suppressed by CO2+, suggesting the presence of a Ca2(+)-activated K+ current component. Single-channel currents were recorded in cell-attached and outside-out patches of taste cell membranes. Two types of K+ channels were partially characterized, one having a mean unitary conductance of 21 pS, and the other, a conductance of 148 pS. These experiments demonstrate that tiger salamander taste cells have a variety of voltage- and ion-dependent currents including Na+ currents, Ca2+ currents and three types of K+ currents. One or more of these conductances may be modulated either directly by taste stimuli or indirectly by stimulus-regulated second messenger systems to give rise to stimulus-activated receptor potentials. Others may play a role in modulation of neurotransmitter release at synapses with taste nerve fibers.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

This content is only available as a PDF.