Recent studies have shown that human bitter taste receptors (TAS2Rs) are not only expressed in mucous epithelial cells of the tongue, but also in epithelial cells of the colon, stomach and upper respiratory tract. These cell types come in close contact with external bitter compounds by ingestion or breathing. In the present work we addressed the question whether bitter taste receptors might also be expressed in cornified epithelial cells of the skin. Here, we show for the first time the expression of TAS2R1 and TAS2R38 in human skin. Double staining of HaCaT cells and primary keratinocytes demonstrated the colocalization of TAS2R1 and TAS2R38 with the adaptor protein α-gustducin that is essential for signal transduction upon ligand binding. To test if TAS2Rs in keratinocytes are functional, we stimulated HaCaT cells with diphenidol, a clinically used bitter-tasting antiemetic, or amarogentin, the bitterest plant substance, that binds TAS2Rs, including TAS2R1 and TAS2R38. Diphenidol and amarogentin induced calcium influx. Furthermore, in keratinocytes diphenidol and amarogentin stimulated the expression of the differentiation markers keratin 10, involucrin and transglutaminase. Therefore, apart from the known role in mucous membranes of the gastrointestinal tract, TAS2Rs are expressed in the epidermis and might play a role in keratinocyte differentiation.

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