A search was made for expression of genes for proline-rich proteins (PRPs) and other salivary-type proteins, including statherin and histatins, in taste-bud tissues of mice and primates because of previous genetic findings in mice (Azen et al., 1986) that Prp and taste genes for certain bitter substances are either the same or closely linked. Taste-bud tissues and other tissues were tested for specific mRNAs with labeled DNA probes by Northern blotting and in situ hybridization. It was found that PRP mRNAs were present in von Ebner's glands of mice and macaques, and that there was a much greater degree of PRP mRNA induction in mouse parotid (16-fold) than in von Ebner's gland (two-fold) after in vivo isoproterenol stimulation. This difference may be due, in part, to differences in autonomic nerve innervation. Statherin and histatin mRNAs were found in macaque taste-bud tissues containing von Ebner's gland, and statherin protein was found in human von Ebner's gland by immunohistochemistry. The finding of PRP gene expression in von Ebner's gland, whose secretions have been suggested to play a role in taste stimulation, adds further support to a possible function of PRPs in bitter tasting. The possible functions of statherin and histatins in von Ebner's gland secretions may be related to statherin's regulation of salivary calcium and histatins' antibacterial and antifungal properties.
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