The mammalian tastes of sweet, umami, and bitter are initiated by activation of G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) of the T1R and T2R families on taste receptor cells. GPCRs signal via nucleotide exchange and hydrolysis, the latter hastened by GTPase-accelerating proteins (GAPs) that include the Regulators of G protein Signaling (RGS) protein family. We previously reported that RGS21, uniquely expressed in Type II taste receptor cells, decreases the potency of bitter-stimulated T2R signaling in cultured cells, consistent with its in vitro GAP activity. However, the role of RGS21 in organismal responses to GPCR-mediated tastants was not established. Here, we characterized mice lacking the Rgs21 fifth exon. Eliminating Rgs21 expression had no effect on body mass accumulation (a measure of alimentation), fungiform papillae number and morphology, circumvallate papillae morphology, and taste bud number. Two-bottle preference tests, however, revealed that Rgs21-null mice have blunted aversion to quinine and denatonium, and blunted preference for monosodium glutamate, the sweeteners sucrose and SC45647, and (surprisingly) NaCl. Observed reductions in GPCR-mediated tastant responses upon Rgs21 loss are opposite to original expectations, given that loss of RGS21-a GPCR signaling negative regulator-should lead to increased responsiveness to tastant-mediated GPCR signaling (all else being equal). Yet, reduced organismal tastant responses are consistent with observations of reduced chorda tympani nerve recordings in Rgs21-null mice. Reduced tastant-mediated responses and behaviors exhibited by adult mice lacking Rgs21 expression since birth have thus revealed an underappreciated requirement for a GPCR GAP to establish the full character of tastant signaling.
- Regulator of G protein signaling-21 (RGS21)
- Taste buds
- Taste perception