RECTOR & VISITORS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA
This request for an ARRA Administrative Supplement is designed to accelerate the science funded by the parent grant entitled "Neural Plasticity in the Adult Gustatory System" (# ROl DC006938). The primary aim of the supplement is to accelerate our new work with mouse models that complement and extend our studies on the effects of peripheral nerve cut on central gustatory pathways and circuits. The dependence of taste buds on innervation has been used as a model to understand nerve/target interactions. Loss of innervation results in a loss of the normal morphological appearance of taste buds, while restoration of innervation results in a recovery of taste bud morphology and function. The adult regenerating gustatory system is especially susceptible to environmental manipulations. Although there are significant data describing the morphological and functional consequences of taste nerve cuts on peripheral and central gustatory pathways, there is very little known about the underlying mechanisms of these phenomena. Funds derived from the ARRA supplement will allow us to develop animal models through genetic engineering so that we can test hypotheses about the underlying cellular and molecular mechanisms of injury-induced plasticity in the mouse gustatory system. Findings from these studies will also address the broader topics of sensory coding, the role of neural activity in maintenance of sensory function, and the temporal stability and accuracy of peripheral innervation under normal circumstances and in response to nerve damage. Results will also enable a clearer understanding of the neurobiological sequelae of human taste nerve damage sustained pathologically, or during middle ear or oral surgery.
Findings resulting from these experiments will be highly useful in understanding mechanisms of nerve-target interactions in central nervous system and will also be useful in identifying key processes involved in loss of gustatory function following gustatory nerve damage, including damage common to middle ear surgery in humans.