Robin Krimm, Ph.D.


Department of Anatomical Sciences & Neurobiology

Phone: 502-852-3059 Website E-mail

Research Focus

Taste bud cells play a crucial role in detecting chemical information, such as sweetness or saltiness, in the food we consume. These cells connect to peripheral sensory neurons, transmitting taste information to the brain. While taste bud cells come in various types, each responsible for transducing specific chemicals, the classification of peripheral sensory neuron types remains unclear. Our research focuses on elucidating the relationships between genetic expression, morphology, and function of different peripheral gustatory neuron types. 

In the adult taste system, taste receptors undergo continuous replacement, making it unique. We seek to understand how taste neurons establish connections with taste bud cells during development, taste bud cell turnover, and in scenarios of disrupted turnover caused by chemotherapy. Beyond taste, we also explore how neurons detect information about the location and texture of food in the mouth and whether this input modulates taste centrally. 

To address these questions, we employ a combination of techniques, including sparse cell genetic labeling, fiber tracing, whole-mount imaging, intra-vital imaging, and calcium imaging. Our studies aim to address fundamental inquiries in the field of taste, such as the organization of the peripheral taste system, maintenance of this organization during continuous renewal of receptor cells, and the localization of tastes on the tongue. Understanding these fundamental aspects is crucial for developing strategies to repair damage to the taste system. 

Current Projects

1) We have identified neuron morphologies using sparse cell genetic labeling and observed variations, ranging from sparsely branched to heavily branched. Our ongoing efforts aim to determine the regulatory mechanisms governing these morphologies, investigating whether different neuron types exhibit divergent morphologies and exploring their potential impact on neuron function5R01DC007176 

2) Given the dynamic connection between taste receptor cells and neurons, we are exploring the specific movements (plasticity) influencing neuron morphology and required for forming new connections. Additionally, we investigate how taste bud damage and signaling pathways influencing the taste receptor cell cycle alter peripheral neuron morphologies5R01DC007176 

3) The sense of taste is intricately linked with touch. We are focused on identifying the non-taste light touch mechanoreceptor responsible for mediating taste localization on the tongue5R01DC019634