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J Neurophysiol. 2004 Jun;91(6):2532-40. Epub 2004 Feb 11.

Mitral and tufted cells differ in the decoding manner of odor maps in the rat olfactory bulb.

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  • 1Department of Physiology, Graduate School of Medicine, University of Tokyo, 7-3-1 Hongo, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-0033, Japan.


Mitral and tufted cells in the mammalian olfactory bulb are principal neurons, each type having distinct projection pattern of their dendrites and axons. The morphological difference suggests that mitral and tufted cells are functionally distinct and may process different aspects of olfactory information. To examine this possibility, we recorded odorant-evoked spike responses from mitral and middle tufted cells in the aliphatic acid- and aldehyde-responsive cluster at the dorsomedial part of the rat olfactory bulb. Homologous series of aliphatic acids and aldehydes were used for odorant stimulation. In response to adequate odorants, mitral cells showed spike responses with relatively low firing rates, whereas middle tufted cells responded with higher firing rates. Examination of the molecular receptive range (MRR) indicated that most mitral cells exhibited a robust inhibitory MRR, whereas a majority of middle tufted cells showed no or only a weak inhibitory MRR. In addition, structurally different odorants that activated neighboring clusters inhibited the spike activity of mitral cells, whereas they caused no or only a weak inhibition in the middle tufted cells. Furthermore, responses of mitral cells to an adequate excitatory odorant were greatly inhibited by mixing the odorant with other odorants that activated neighboring glomeruli. In contrast, odorants that activated neighboring glomeruli did not significantly inhibit the responses of middle tufted cells to the adequate excitatory odorant. These results indicate a clear difference between mitral and middle tufted cells in the manner of decoding the glomerular odor maps.

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