1. To evaluate the role of saliva in the maintenance of taste sensitivity, the activities in the rat chorda tympani innervating taste buds in the anterior part of the tongue were analysed. The effects of chronic extirpation of the submandibular and sublingual salivary glands were tested and compared with results after chronic oral administration of artificial saliva. 2. Removal of the salivary glands sharply decreased chorda tympani responses to four different taste stimuli by 7 days post-desalivation, while a stable response to cold water was observed by at least 28 days. 3. This selective decrease in taste responses was considerably recovered by 7-day-oral injection of artificial saliva (containing NaHCO3, KCl and/or mucin) or distilled water. However, the injection of the salt-containing artificial saliva induced significantly larger sucrose and smaller NaCl, KCl and quinine responses than did the injection of distilled water. 4. In our salivary manipulations, an alteration in the number of the functional sweet receptors was suggested by the cross-adaptation technique using NaHCO3, whereas sensitivity to the epithelial sodium transport blocker, amiloride, was stable in the NaCl response. 5. Salivary water and electrolytes which may participate in forming the external environment of the taste receptor cells modulated taste sensitivity in the chorda tympani.
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