Research Associate, Monell Chemical Senses Center
Ph.D., Neuroscience; University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
Dr. Robert Margolskee
My research is focused on understanding the cellular and molecular basis of salty taste. There are at least two pathways underlying salty taste in mammals, distinguished by their sensitivity to the cation channel inhibitor amiloride. While much has been learned about these pathways, some important questions remain unanswered. What types of taste cells express salt taste receptors? What is the identity of the receptor/channel responsible for amiloride-insensitive salt taste? How does cell-to-cell communication within the taste bud influence salt signal transduction? My goal is to help answer these and other questions related to salt taste transduction. My experiments combine physiological analyses of taste cells using calcium imaging and electrophysiology with single cell molecular techniques to assay gene transcription.
Prior to coming to the taste field, I used in vivo electrophysiology in awake, behaving animals to study the systems and neural networks underlying vocal communication. This background in neural networks fuels my broader interest in understanding how cell-to-cell communication in the taste bud shapes taste signal transduction and mediates the perceptual interactions between different taste qualities. My focus on salty taste is motivated by evidence from perceptual and physiological studies that suggest cell-to-cell signaling plays a particularly important role in salt taste transduction.
Lewandowski, B. C., Sukumaran, S. K., Margolskee, R. F., Bachmanov, A. A. (2016). Amiloride-insensitive salt taste is mediated by two populations of type III taste cells with distinct transduction mechanisms. The Journal of Neuroscience, 36, 1942-1953.