Taste buds are the dedicated sensory end organs of taste, comprising a complex and evolving profile of signaling elements. The sensation and ultimate perception of taste depends on the expression of a diverse array of receptors and channels that sense their respective tastes. Receptor regulation is a recognized and well-studied phenomenon in many systems, observed in opioid addiction, insulin resistance and caffeine tolerance. Results from human sensory studies suggest that receptor sensitivity or expression level may decrease after chronic exposure to respective tastants through diet. We review data supporting the theory that taste receptors may become downregulated with exposure to a specific tastant, along with presenting data from a small pilot study, showing the impact of long-term tastant exposure on taste receptor expression in mice. Mice treated with monosodium salt monohydrate (MSG), saccharin and NaCl (typically appetitive tastes) all displayed a significant decrease in mRNA expression for respective umami, sweet and salty receptors/sensory channels. Reduced sensitivity to appetitive tastes may promote overconsumption of foods high in such stimuli.
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