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Biophys J. Aug 1997; 73(2): 1110–1117.
PMCID: PMC1181007

High-gain, low-noise amplification in olfactory transduction.


It is desirable that sensory systems use high-gain, low-noise amplification to convert weak stimuli into detectable signals. Here it is shown that a pair of receptor currents underlying vertebrate olfactory transduction constitutes such a scheme. The primary receptor current is an influx of Na+ and Ca2+ through cAMP-gated channels in the olfactory cilia. External divalent cations improve the signal-to-noise properties of this current, reducing the mean current and the current variance. As Ca2+ enters the cilium, it gates Cl- channels, activating a secondary depolarizing receptor current. This current amplifies the primary current, but introduces little additional noise. The system of two currents plus divalent cations in the mucus produces a large receptor current with very low noise.

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