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Anatomical stability of human fungiform papillae and relationship with oral perception measured by salivary response and intensity rating

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Alexander Gardner, Guy H. Carpenter

Original languageEnglish
Article number9759
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019

King's Authors


Fungiform papillae house taste buds on the anterior dorsal tongue. Literature is inconclusive as to whether taste perception correlates with fungiform papillae density (FPD). Gustatory reflexes modulate the amount and composition of saliva subsequently produced, and thus may be a more physiologically objective measure of tastant-receptor interactions. Taste perception fluctuates with time but the stability of individual fungiform papillae is unclear. This study followed ten healthy volunteers longitudinally at baseline, one and six months. FPD, diameter and position were measured and participants rated intensity perception of sucrose, caffeine, menthol and capsaicin solutions. Salivary flow rate, protein concentration and relative changes in protein composition were measured following each tastant. FPD, diameter and position were unchanged at six months. FPD did not correlate with intensity rating for any taste. FPD did correlate with changes in salivary protein output following sucrose (ρ = 0.72, p = 0.02) and changes in levels of proline-rich protein and mucin 7 following capsaicin (ρ = 0.71, p = 0.02, ρ = 0.68, p = 0.04, respectively). These results suggest that over six months fungiform papillae are anatomically stable, playing a greater role in mediating the physiological salivary response to stimuli rather than determining the perceived intensity of taste.

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