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J Neurosci. 2004 Feb 4;24(5):1190-9.

Olfactory bulb glomeruli: external tufted cells intrinsically burst at theta frequency and are entrained by patterned olfactory input.

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  • 1Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, Program in Neuroscience, University of Maryland, Baltimore, Maryland 21201, USA.


Glomeruli, the initial sites of synaptic processing in the olfactory system, contain at least three types of neurons collectively referred to as juxtaglomerular (JG) neurons. The role of JG neurons in odor processing is poorly understood. We investigated the morphology, spontaneous, and sensory-evoked activity of one class of JG neurons, external tufted (ET) cells, using whole-cell patch-clamp and extracellular recordings in rat olfactory bulb slices. ET cells have extensive dendrites that ramify within a single glomerulus or, rarely, in two adjacent glomeruli. All ET neurons exhibit spontaneous rhythmic bursts of action potentials (approximately 1-8 bursts/sec). Bursting is intrinsically generated; bursting persisted and became more regular in the presence of ionotropic glutamate and GABA receptor antagonists. Burst frequency is voltage dependent; frequency increased at membrane potentials depolarized relative to rest and decreased during membrane potential hyperpolarization. Spontaneous bursting persisted in blockers of calcium channels that eliminated low-threshold calcium spikes (LTS) in ET cells. ET cells have a persistent sodium current available at membrane potentials that generate spontaneous bursting. Internal perfusion with a fast sodium channel blocker eliminated spontaneous bursting but did not block the LTS. These results suggest that persistent sodium channels are essential for spontaneous burst generation in ET cells. ET cell bursts were entrained to ON stimuli delivered over the range of theta frequencies. Thus, ET cells appear to be tuned to the frequency of sniffing.

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