Taste reception is fundamental for the proper selection of food and beverages. Among the several chemicals recognized by the human taste system, sodium ions (Na+
) are of particular relevance. Na+
represents the main extracellular cation and is a key factor in many physiological processes. Na+
elicits a specific sensation, called salty taste, and low-medium concentrations of table salt (NaCl, the common sodium-containing chemical we use to season foods) are perceived as pleasant and appetitive. How we detect this cation in foodstuffs is scarcely understood. In animal models, such as the mouse and the rat, the epithelial sodium channel (ENaC) has been proposed as a key protein for recognizing Na+
and for mediating preference responses to low-medium salt concentrations. Here, I will review our current understanding regarding the possible involvement of ENaC in the detection of food Na+
by the human taste system.
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