ResearchPad - olfactory-receptor-neurons Default RSS Feed en-us © 2020 Newgen KnowledgeWorks <![CDATA[Interplay between axonal Wnt5-Vang and dendritic Wnt5-Drl/Ryk signaling controls glomerular patterning in the <i>Drosophila</i> antennal lobe]]> During brain development, the processes of nerve cells, axons and dendrites, grow over long distances to find and connect with each other to form synapses in precise locations. Understanding the mechanisms that control the growth of these neurites is important for understanding normal brain functions like neuronal plasticity and neural diseases like autism. Although much progress has been made by studying the development of axons and dendrites separately, the mechanisms that guide neuronal processes to their final locations are still incompletely understood. In particular, careful observation of converging pre- and postsynaptic processes suggests that their targeting may be coordinated. Whether the final targeting of axons and dendrites are functionally linked and what molecular mechanisms may be involved are unknown. In this paper we show that, in the developing Drosophila olfactory circuit, coalescing axons and dendrites respond to the extracellular Wnt5 signal in a codependent manner. We demonstrate that the converging axons and dendrites contribute different signaling components to the Wnt5 pathway, the Vang Gogh and Derailed transmembrane receptors respectively, which allow Wnt5 to coordinately guide the targeting of the neurites. Our work thus reveals a novel mechanism of neural circuit patterning and the molecular mechanism that controls it.

<![CDATA[Odorant mixtures elicit less variable and faster responses than pure odorants]]>

In natural environments, odors are typically mixtures of several different chemical compounds. However, the implications of mixtures for odor processing have not been fully investigated. We have extended a standard olfactory receptor model to mixtures and found through its mathematical analysis that odorant-evoked activity patterns are more stable across concentrations and first-spike latencies of receptor neurons are shorter for mixtures than for pure odorants. Shorter first-spike latencies arise from the nonlinear dependence of binding rate on odorant concentration, commonly described by the Hill coefficient, while the more stable activity patterns result from the competition between different ligands for receptor sites. These results are consistent with observations from numerical simulations and physiological recordings in the olfactory system of insects. Our results suggest that mixtures allow faster and more reliable olfactory coding, which could be one of the reasons why animals often use mixtures in chemical signaling.

<![CDATA[<i>PLoS Computational Biology</i> Issue Image | Vol. 14(11) November 2018]]>

Moth antennal neurons adjust their encoding optimally with respect to pheromone fluctuations

Sensory neural systems of living organisms encode the representation of their environment with remarkable efficiency. This is manifested, e.g., in the way how male moths perform long-distance searches of their females by tracking the pheromone plumes. In the study "Moth olfactory receptor neurons adjust their encoding efficiency to temporal statistics of pheromone fluctuations" Levakova et al. analyzed responses of pheromone-specific antennal neurons to naturalistic stimulation. It was shown that the coding accuracy and the stimulus distribution are in the optimal relationship as predicted by both information theory and statistical estimation theory.

Image Credit: Marie Levakova

<![CDATA[Modulatory Effects of Sex Steroids Progesterone and Estradiol on Odorant Evoked Responses in Olfactory Receptor Neurons]]>

The influence of the sex steroid hormones progesterone and estradiol on physiology and behavior during menstrual cycles and pregnancy is well known. Several studies indicate that olfactory performance changes with cyclically fluctuating steroid hormone levels in females. Knowledge of the exact mechanisms behind how female sex steroids modulate olfactory signaling is limited. A number of different known genomic and non-genomic actions that are mediated by progesterone and estradiol via interactions with different receptors may be responsible for this modulation. Next generation sequencing-based RNA-Seq transcriptome data from the murine olfactory epithelium (OE) and olfactory receptor neurons (ORNs) revealed the expression of several membrane progestin receptors and the estradiol receptor Gpr30. These receptors are known to mediate rapid non-genomic effects through interactions with G proteins. RT-PCR and immunohistochemical staining results provide evidence for progestin and estradiol receptors in the ORNs. These data support the hypothesis that steroid hormones are capable of modulating the odorant-evoked activity of ORNs. Here, we validated this hypothesis through the investigation of steroid hormone effects by submerged electro-olfactogram and whole cell patch-clamp recordings of ORNs. For the first time, we demonstrate that the sex steroid hormones progesterone and estradiol decrease odorant-evoked signals in the OE and ORNs of mice at low nanomolar concentrations. Thus, both of these sex steroids can rapidly modulate the odor responsiveness of ORNs through membrane progestin receptors and the estradiol receptor Gpr30.

<![CDATA[Functional Overexpression of Vomeronasal Receptors Using a Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 (HSV-1)-Derived Amplicon]]>

In mice, social behaviors such as mating and aggression are mediated by pheromones and related chemosignals. The vomeronasal organ (VNO) detects olfactory information from other individuals by sensory neurons tuned to respond to specific chemical cues. Receptors expressed by vomeronasal neurons are implicated in selective detection of these cues. Nearly 400 receptor genes have been identified in the mouse VNO, but the tuning properties of individual receptors remain poorly understood, in part due to the lack of a robust heterologous expression system. Here we develop a herpes virus-based amplicon delivery system to overexpress three types of vomeronasal receptor genes and to characterize cell responses to their proposed ligands. Through Ca2+ imaging in native VNO cells we show that virus-induced overexpression of V1rj2, V2r1b or Fpr3 caused a pronounced increase of responsivity to sulfated steroids, MHC-binding peptide or the synthetic hexapeptide W-peptide, respectively. Other related ligands were not recognized by infected individual neurons, indicating a high degree of selectivity by the overexpressed receptor. Removal of G-protein signaling eliminates Ca2+ responses, indicating that the endogenous second messenger system is essential for observing receptor activation. Our results provide a novel expression system for vomeronasal receptors that should be useful for understanding the molecular logic of VNO ligand detection. Functional expression of vomeronasal receptors and their deorphanization provides an essential requirement for deciphering the neural mechanisms controlling behavior.

<![CDATA[GnRH-mediated olfactory and visual inputs promote mating-like behaviors in male zebrafish]]>

The engagement of sexual behaviors is regulated by a number of factors which include gene expression, hormone circulation, and multi-sensory information integration. In zebrafish, when a male and a female are placed in the same container, they show mating-like behaviors regardless of whether they are kept together or separated by a net. No mating-like behaviors are observed when same-sex animals are put together. Through the olfacto-visual centrifugal pathway, activation of the terminalis nerve in the olfactory bulb increases GnRH signaling in the brain and triggers mating-like behaviors between males. In zebrafish mutants or wild-type fish in which the olfacto-visual centrifugal pathway is impaired or chemically ablated, in response to odor stimulation the mating-like behaviors between males are no longer evident. Together, the data suggest that the combination of olfactory and visual signals alter male zebrafish's mating-like behaviors via GnRH signaling.

<![CDATA[Chromatin Modulatory Proteins and Olfactory Receptor Signaling in the Refinement and Maintenance of Fruitless Expression in Olfactory Receptor Neurons]]>

During development, sensory neurons must choose identities that allow them to detect specific signals and connect with appropriate target neurons. Ultimately, these sensory neurons will successfully integrate into appropriate neural circuits to generate defined motor outputs, or behavior. This integration requires a developmental coordination between the identity of the neuron and the identity of the circuit. The mechanisms that underlie this coordination are currently unknown. Here, we describe two modes of regulation that coordinate the sensory identities of Drosophila melanogaster olfactory receptor neurons (ORNs) involved in sex-specific behaviors with the sex-specific behavioral circuit identity marker fruitless (fru). The first mode involves a developmental program that coordinately restricts to appropriate ORNs the expression of fru and two olfactory receptors (Or47b and Ir84a) involved in sex-specific behaviors. This regulation requires the chromatin modulatory protein Alhambra (Alh). The second mode relies on the signaling from the olfactory receptors through CamK and histone acetyl transferase p300/CBP to maintain ORN-specific fru expression. Our results highlight two feed-forward regulatory mechanisms with both developmentally hardwired and olfactory receptor activity-dependent components that establish and maintain fru expression in ORNs. Such a dual mechanism of fru regulation in ORNs might be a trait of neurons driving plastic aspects of sex-specific behaviors.

<![CDATA[Olfactory coding in the turbulent realm]]>

Long-distance olfactory search behaviors depend on odor detection dynamics. Due to turbulence, olfactory signals travel as bursts of variable concentration and spacing and are characterized by long-tail distributions of odor/no-odor events, challenging the computing capacities of olfactory systems. How animals encode complex olfactory scenes to track the plume far from the source remains unclear. Here we focus on the coding of the plume temporal dynamics in moths. We compare responses of olfactory receptor neurons (ORNs) and antennal lobe projection neurons (PNs) to sequences of pheromone stimuli either with white-noise patterns or with realistic turbulent temporal structures simulating a large range of distances (8 to 64 m) from the odor source. For the first time, we analyze what information is extracted by the olfactory system at large distances from the source. Neuronal responses are analyzed using linear–nonlinear models fitted with white-noise stimuli and used for predicting responses to turbulent stimuli. We found that neuronal firing rate is less correlated with the dynamic odor time course when distance to the source increases because of improper coding during long odor and no-odor events that characterize large distances. Rapid adaptation during long puffs does not preclude however the detection of puff transitions in PNs. Individual PNs but not individual ORNs encode the onset and offset of odor puffs for any temporal structure of stimuli. A higher spontaneous firing rate coupled to an inhibition phase at the end of PN responses contributes to this coding property. This allows PNs to decode the temporal structure of the odor plume at any distance to the source, an essential piece of information moths can use in their tracking behavior.

<![CDATA[Evidence for a shape-based recognition of odorants in vivo in the human nose from an analysis of the molecular mechanism of lily-of-the-valley odorants detection in the Lilial and Bourgeonal family using the C/Si/Ge/Sn switch strategy]]>

We performed an analysis of possible mechanisms of ligand recognition in the human nose. The analysis is based on in vivo odor threshold determination and in vitro Ca2+ imaging assays with a C/Si/Ge/Sn switch strategy applied to the compounds Lilial and Bourgeonal, to differentiate between different molecular mechanisms of odorant detection. Our results suggest that odorant detection under threshold conditions is mainly based on the molecular shape, i.e. the van der Waals surface, and electrostatics of the odorants. Furthermore, we show that a single olfactory receptor type is responsible for odor detection of Bourgeonal at the threshold level in humans in vivo. Carrying out a QM analysis of vibrational energies contained in the odorants, there is no evidence for a vibration-based recognition.

<![CDATA[Interglomerular Connectivity within the Canonical and GC-D/Necklace Olfactory Subsystems]]>

The mammalian main olfactory system contains several subsystems that differ not only in the receptors they express and the glomerular targets they innervate within the main olfactory bulb (MOB), but also in the strategies they use to process odor information. The canonical main olfactory system employs a combinatorial coding strategy that represents odorant identity as a pattern of glomerular activity. By contrast, the "GC-D/necklace" olfactory subsystem—formed by olfactory sensory neurons expressing the receptor guanylyl cyclase GC-D and their target necklace glomeruli (NGs) encircling the caudal MOB—is critical for the detection of a small number of semiochemicals that promote the acquisition of food preferences. The formation of these socially-transmitted food preferences requires the animal to integrate information about two types of olfactory stimuli: these specialized social chemosignals and the food odors themselves. However, the neural mechanisms with which the GC-D/necklace subsystem processes this information are unclear. We used stimulus-induced increases in intrinsic fluorescence signals to map functional circuitry associated with NGs and canonical glomeruli (CGs) in the MOB. As expected, CG-associated activity spread laterally through both the glomerular and external plexiform layers associated with activated glomeruli. Activation of CGs or NGs resulted in activity spread between the two types of glomeruli; there was no evidence of preferential connectivity between individual necklace glomeruli. These results support previous anatomical findings that suggest the canonical and GC-D/necklace subsystems are functionally connected and may integrate general odor and semiochemical information in the MOB.

<![CDATA[Transplant Antennae and Host Brain Interact to Shape Odor Perceptual Space in Male Moths]]>

Behavioral responses to odors rely first upon their accurate detection by peripheral sensory organs followed by subsequent processing within the brain’s olfactory system and higher centers. These processes allow the animal to form a unified impression of the odor environment and recognize combinations of odorants as single entities. To investigate how interactions between peripheral and central olfactory pathways shape odor perception, we transplanted antennal imaginal discs between larval males of two species of moth Heliothis virescens and Heliothis subflexa that utilize distinct pheromone blends. During metamorphic development olfactory receptor neurons originating from transplanted discs formed connections with host brain neurons within olfactory glomeruli of the adult antennal lobe. The normal antennal receptor repertoire exhibited by males of each species reflects the differences in the pheromone blends that these species employ. Behavioral assays of adult transplant males revealed high response levels to two odor blends that were dissimilar from those that attract normal males of either species. Neurophysiological analyses of peripheral receptor neurons and central olfactory neurons revealed that these behavioral responses were a result of: 1. the specificity of H. virescens donor olfactory receptor neurons for odorants unique to the donor pheromone blend and, 2. central odor recognition by the H. subflexa host brain, which typically requires peripheral receptor input across 3 distinct odor channels in order to elicit behavioral responses.

<![CDATA[mSWI/SNF (BAF) Complexes Are Indispensable for the Neurogenesis and Development of Embryonic Olfactory Epithelium]]>

Neurogenesis is a key developmental event through which neurons are generated from neural stem/progenitor cells. Chromatin remodeling BAF (mSWI/SNF) complexes have been reported to play essential roles in the neurogenesis of the central nervous system. However, whether BAF complexes are required for neuron generation in the olfactory system is unknown. Here, we identified onscBAF and ornBAF complexes, which are specifically present in olfactory neural stem cells (oNSCs) and olfactory receptor neurons (ORNs), respectively. We demonstrated that BAF155 subunit is highly expressed in both oNSCs and ORNs, whereas high expression of BAF170 subunit is observed only in ORNs. We report that conditional deletion of BAF155, a core subunit in both onscBAF and ornBAF complexes, causes impaired proliferation of oNSCs as well as defective maturation and axonogenesis of ORNs in the developing olfactory epithelium (OE), while the high expression of BAF170 is important for maturation of ORNs. Interestingly, in the absence of BAF complexes in BAF155/BAF170 double-conditional knockout mice (dcKO), OE is not specified. Mechanistically, BAF complex is required for normal activation of Pax6-dependent transcriptional activity in stem cells/progenitors of the OE. Our findings unveil a novel mechanism mediated by the mSWI/SNF complex in OE neurogenesis and development.

<![CDATA[Contraceptive Use Affects Overall Olfactory Performance: Investigation of Estradiol Dosage and Duration of Intake]]>

The influence of female sex steroids on cognitive performance and sensory perception has been investigated for decades. However, previous research that studied olfaction revealed inconsistent results. The main aim of this study was to investigate the effects of different ethinyl estradiol (EE) concentrations of oral contraceptives and duration of intake on olfactory function. Forty-two healthy women, with regular intake of either high or low EE dosage over at least one year and up to 15 years participated in this study. Results revealed a significant concordance between a priori categorization in the two groups with high and low EE dosage and data-driven hierarchical clustering (p = 0.008). Furthermore, significantly higher olfactory performance was observed in women using low-dose products compared to women using high-dosed products (p = 0.019). These findings indicate different effects of pill use with regard to EE concentration. We therefore strongly recommend the acquisition of information about EE dosage of oral contraceptives to reduce potential confounding factors when investigating sensory systems.

<![CDATA[Normalized Neural Representations of Complex Odors]]>

The olfactory system removes correlations in natural odors using a network of inhibitory neurons in the olfactory bulb. It has been proposed that this network integrates the response from all olfactory receptors and inhibits them equally. However, how such global inhibition influences the neural representations of odors is unclear. Here, we study a simple statistical model of the processing in the olfactory bulb, which leads to concentration-invariant, sparse representations of the odor composition. We show that the inhibition strength can be tuned to obtain sparse representations that are still useful to discriminate odors that vary in relative concentration, size, and composition. The model reveals two generic consequences of global inhibition: (i) odors with many molecular species are more difficult to discriminate and (ii) receptor arrays with heterogeneous sensitivities perform badly. Comparing these predictions to experiments will help us to understand the role of global inhibition in shaping normalized odor representations in the olfactory bulb.

<![CDATA[Ionotropic Chemosensory Receptors Mediate the Taste and Smell of Polyamines]]>

The ability to find and consume nutrient-rich diets for successful reproduction and survival is fundamental to animal life. Among the nutrients important for all animals are polyamines, a class of pungent smelling compounds required in numerous cellular and organismic processes. Polyamine deficiency or excess has detrimental effects on health, cognitive function, reproduction, and lifespan. Here, we show that a diet high in polyamine is beneficial and increases reproductive success of flies, and we unravel the sensory mechanisms that attract Drosophila to polyamine-rich food and egg-laying substrates. Using a combination of behavioral genetics and in vivo calcium imaging, we demonstrate that Drosophila uses multisensory detection to find and evaluate polyamines present in overripe and fermenting fruit, their favored feeding and egg-laying substrate. In the olfactory system, two coexpressed ionotropic receptors (IRs), IR76b and IR41a, mediate the long-range attraction to the odor. In the gustatory system, multimodal taste sensation by IR76b receptor and GR66a bitter receptor neurons is used to evaluate quality and valence of the polyamine providing a mechanism for the fly’s high attraction to polyamine-rich and sweet decaying fruit. Given their universal and highly conserved biological roles, we propose that the ability to evaluate food for polyamine content may impact health and reproductive success also of other animals including humans.

<![CDATA[Odorant Responses and Courtship Behaviors Influenced by at4 Neurons in Drosophila]]>

In insects, pheromones function as triggers to elicit complex behavior programs, such as courtship and mating behavior. In most species, the neurons tuned to pheromones are localized in a specific subset of olfactory sensilla located on the antenna called trichoid sensilla. In Drosophila there are two classes of trichoid sensilla, at1 sensilla that contain the dendrites of a single neuron that is specifically tuned to the male-specific pheromone 11-cis vaccenyl acetate (cVA), and at4 sensilla that contain three neurons with relatively poorly defined chemical specificity and function. Using a combination of odorant receptor mutant analysis, single sensillum electrophysiology and optogenetics, we have examined the chemical tuning and behavioral consequences of the three at4 olfactory neuron classes. Our results indicate that one class, Or65abc neurons, are unresponsive to cVA pheromone, and function to inhibit courtship behaviors in response to an unknown ligand, while the other two neuron classes, Or88a and Or47b neurons, are sensitive to a diverse array of fly and non-fly odors, and activation of these neurons has little direct impact on courtship behaviors.

<![CDATA[Variations on a Theme: Antennal Lobe Architecture across Coleoptera]]>

Beetles comprise about 400,000 described species, nearly one third of all known animal species. The enormous success of the order Coleoptera is reflected by a rich diversity of lifestyles, behaviors, morphological, and physiological adaptions. All these evolutionary adaptions that have been driven by a variety of parameters over the last about 300 million years, make the Coleoptera an ideal field to study the evolution of the brain on the interface between the basic bauplan of the insect brain and the adaptions that occurred. In the current study we concentrated on the paired antennal lobes (AL), the part of the brain that is typically responsible for the first processing of olfactory information collected from olfactory sensilla on antenna and mouthparts. We analyzed 63 beetle species from 22 different families and thus provide an extensive comparison of principal neuroarchitecture of the AL. On the examined anatomical level, we found a broad diversity including AL containing a wide range of glomeruli numbers reaching from 50 to 150 glomeruli and several species with numerous small glomeruli, resembling the microglomerular design described in acridid grasshoppers and diving beetles, and substructures within the glomeruli that have to date only been described for the small hive beetle, Aethina tumida. A first comparison of the various anatomical features of the AL with available descriptions of lifestyle and behaviors did so far not reveal useful correlations. In summary, the current study provides a solid basis for further studies to unravel mechanisms that are basic to evolutionary adaptions of the insect olfactory system.

<![CDATA[A Robust Feedforward Model of the Olfactory System]]>

Most natural odors have sparse molecular composition. This makes the principles of compressed sensing potentially relevant to the structure of the olfactory code. Yet, the largely feedforward organization of the olfactory system precludes reconstruction using standard compressed sensing algorithms. To resolve this problem, recent theoretical work has shown that signal reconstruction could take place as a result of a low dimensional dynamical system converging to one of its attractor states. However, the dynamical aspects of optimization slowed down odor recognition and were also found to be susceptible to noise. Here we describe a feedforward model of the olfactory system that achieves both strong compression and fast reconstruction that is also robust to noise. A key feature of the proposed model is a specific relationship between how odors are represented at the glomeruli stage, which corresponds to a compression, and the connections from glomeruli to third-order neurons (neurons in the olfactory cortex of vertebrates or Kenyon cells in the mushroom body of insects), which in the model corresponds to reconstruction. We show that should this specific relationship hold true, the reconstruction will be both fast and robust to noise, and in particular to the false activation of glomeruli. The predicted connectivity rate from glomeruli to third-order neurons can be tested experimentally.

<![CDATA[Olfactory Ensheathing Cells Express α7 Integrin to Mediate Their Migration on Laminin]]>

The unique glia located in the olfactory system, called olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs), are implicated as an attractive choice for transplantation therapy following spinal cord injury because of their pro-regenerative characteristics. Adult OECs are thought to improve functional recovery and regeneration after injury by secreting neurotrophic factors and making cell-to-cell contacts with regenerating processes, but the mechanisms are not well understood. We show first that α7 integrin, a laminin receptor, is highly expressed at the protein level by OECs throughout the olfactory system, i.e., in the olfactory mucosa, olfactory nerve, and olfactory nerve layer of the olfactory bulb. Then we asked if OECs use the α7 integrin receptor directly to promote neurite outgrowth on permissive and neutral substrates, in vitro. We co-cultured α7+/+ and α7lacZ/lacZ postnatal cerebral cortical neurons with α7+/+ or α7lacZ/lacZ OECs and found that genotype did not effect the ability of OECs to enhance neurite outgrowth by direct contact. Loss of α7 integrin did however significantly decrease the motility of adult OECs in transwell experiments. Twice as many α7+/+ OECs migrated through laminin-coated transwells compared to α7+/+ OECs on poly-L-lysine (PLL). This is in contrast to α7lacZ/lacZ OECs, which showed no migratory preference for laminin substrate over PLL. These results demonstrate that OECs express α7 integrin, and that laminin and its α7 integrin receptor contribute to adult OEC migration in vitro and perhaps also in vivo.

<![CDATA[The Mouse Solitary Odorant Receptor Gene Promoters as Models for the Study of Odorant Receptor Gene Choice]]>


In vertebrates, several anatomical regions located within the nasal cavity mediate olfaction. Among these, the main olfactory epithelium detects most conventional odorants. Olfactory sensory neurons, provided with cilia exposed to the air, detect volatile chemicals via an extremely large family of seven-transmembrane chemoreceptors named odorant receptors. Their genes are expressed in a monogenic and monoallelic fashion: a single allele of a single odorant receptor gene is transcribed in a given mature neuron, through a still uncharacterized molecular mechanism known as odorant receptor gene choice.


Odorant receptor genes are typically arranged in genomic clusters, but a few are isolated (we call them solitary) from the others within a region broader than 1 Mb upstream and downstream with respect to their transcript's coordinates. The study of clustered genes is problematic, because of redundancy and ambiguities in their regulatory elements: we propose to use the solitary genes as simplified models to understand odorant receptor gene choice.


Here we define number and identity of the solitary genes in the mouse genome (C57BL/6J), and assess the conservation of the solitary status in some mammalian orthologs. Furthermore, we locate their putative promoters, predict their homeodomain binding sites (commonly present in the promoters of odorant receptor genes) and compare candidate promoter sequences with those of wild-caught mice. We also provide expression data from histological sections.


In the mouse genome there are eight intact solitary genes: Olfr19 (M12), Olfr49, Olfr266, Olfr267, Olfr370, Olfr371, Olfr466, Olfr1402; five are conserved as solitary in rat. These genes are all expressed in the main olfactory epithelium of three-day-old mice. The C57BL/6J candidate promoter of Olfr370 has considerably varied compared to its wild-type counterpart. Within the putative promoter for Olfr266 a homeodomain binding site is predicted. As a whole, our findings favor Olfr266 as a model gene to investigate odorant receptor gene choice.