The sense of taste is of critical importance to animal survival. Although studies of taste signal transduction mechanisms have provided detailed information regarding taste receptor calcium signaling molecules (TRCSMs, required for sweet/bitter/umami taste signal transduction), the ontogeny of taste cells is still largely unknown. We used a novel approach to investigate the molecular regulation of taste system development in mice by combining in silico and in vivo analyses. After discovering that TRCSMs colocalized within developing circumvallate papillae (CVP), we used computational analysis of the upstream regulatory regions of TRCSMs to investigate the possibility of a common regulatory network for TRCSM transcription. Based on this analysis, we identified Hes1 as a likely common regulatory factor, and examined its function in vivo. Expression profile analyses revealed that decreased expression of nuclear HES1 correlated with expression of type II taste cell markers. After stage E18, the CVP of Hes1−/− mutants displayed over 5-fold more TRCSM-immunoreactive cells than did the CVP of their wild-type littermates. Thus, according to our composite analyses, Hes1 is likely to play a role in orchestrating taste cell differentiation in developing taste buds
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