Hojoon Lee Neurobiology of taste

Research Interests

The taste system evaluates the nutritional value (sweet, umami, salty) and safety (bitter, sour) of food. Since this assessment is critical for the survival of the animal, taste cues immediately cause stereotypical behaviors (attraction versus aversion) and evoke innate effect (pleasure versus disgust). Taste information is detected by taste receptor cells (TRCs) on the tongue, each one dedicated to a single taste quality, and relayed through neuronal projections that originate from geniculate/petrosal ganglia en route to the brain. Notably, TRCs are epithelial cells, with lifespans of only about two weeks, requiring precise wiring connections to be established with the correct partner neurons upon appearance of each new cell. Constant need for stem cell maintenance, TRC differentiation, wiring, and information processing presents a considerable challenge for a hardwired circuit, but surprisingly little is known about how this remarkable process is orchestrated. Our research focuses on three fundamental questions:

  • How are new taste receptor cells made?
  • How is the peripheral taste system wired?
  • How do tastes evoke hardwired behaviors?

Selected Publications

Rewiring the taste system. Lee H, Macpherson LJ, Parada CA, Zuker CS, and Ryba NJP. Nature. 2017 August 17;548(7667):330-333.

Enzymatic regulation of pattern: BMP4 binds CUB domains of Tolloids and inhibits proteinase activity. Lee HX, Mendes FA, Plouhinec J-L, and De Robertis EM. Genes & Development. 2009 November 1;23(21):2551-2562.

Embryonic Dorsal-Ventral Signaling: Secreted Frizzled-Related Proteins as Inhibitors of Tolloid Proteinases. Lee HX, Ambrosio AL, Reversade B, and De Robertis EM. Cell. 2006 January 13;124(1):147-159.

View all publications by Hojoon Lee in the National Library of Medicine (PubMed).