Gustducin is a transducin-like G protein selectively expressed in taste receptor cells. The alpha subunit of gustducin (alpha-gustducin) is critical for transduction of responses to bitter or sweet compounds. We identified a G-protein gamma subunit (Ggamma13) that colocalized with alpha-gustducin in taste receptor cells. Of 19 alpha-gustducin/Ggamma13-positive taste receptor cells profiled, all expressed the G protein beta3 subunit (Gbeta3); approximately 80% also expressed Gbeta1. Gustducin heterotrimers (alpha-gustducin/Gbeta1/Ggamma13) were activated by taste cell membranes plus bitter denatonium. Antibodies against Ggamma13 blocked the denatonium-induced increase of inositol trisphosphate (IP3) in taste tissue. We conclude that gustducin heterotrimers transduce responses to bitter and sweet compounds via alpha-gustducin's regulation of phosphodiesterase (PDE) and Gbetagamma's activation of phospholipase C (PLC).
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