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J Neurosci. 1992 Oct;12(10):3896-919.

Olfactory sensory neurons are trophically dependent on the olfactory bulb for their prolonged survival.

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Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, SUNY Health Science Center, Syracuse 13210.


In most neural systems, developing neurons are trophically dependent on contact with their synaptic target for their survival and for some features of their differentiation. However, in the olfactory system, it is unclear whether or not the survival and differentiation of olfactory sensory neurons depend on contact with the olfactory bulb (normally the sole synaptic target for these neurons). In order to address this issue, we examined neuronal life-span and differentiation in adult rats subjected to unilateral olfactory bulb ablation at least 1 month prior to use. Life-span of a newly generated cohort of olfactory neurons was determined by labeling them at their "birth" via the incorporation of 3H-thymidine. In the absence of the bulb, neurons are continually produced at a twofold greater rate. However, the epithelium on the ablated side is thinner, indicating that average neuronal life-span must be reduced in the targetless epithelium. Indeed, nearly 90% of the labeled neurons disappear from the bulbectomized side between 5 d and 2 weeks of neuronal age. Moreover, on electron microscopic examination, olfactory axons are degenerating in large numbers on the ablated side. Since labeled neurons migrate apically through the width of the epithelium during this same period, it appears that most, if not all, neurons on the ablated side have a life-span on the order of 2 weeks or less. In contrast, there is a more moderate degree of neuronal loss on the unoperated side of the same animals during the first 2 weeks after tracer injection, and that occurs while the neurons are concentrated in the deeper half of the epithelium, suggesting that there is a preexisting population of neurons in the control epithelium that does not die during this period. Likewise, degenerating axons are much less frequent on the unoperated side. We conclude that life-span is significantly shorter for olfactory neurons born in the targetless epithelium and that olfactory neurons are trophically dependent on the presence of the bulb for their prolonged survival. Neuronal differentiation in the absence of the bulb was assessed according to ultrastructural criteria and the pattern of protein expression using antisera to the growth associated protein GAP-43 and the olfactory marker protein. By both measures, most neurons in the epithelium on the bulbectomized side, but not all, are immature.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS).

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