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Rev Neurol. 2004 Jul 16-31;39(2):146-55.

[Protocortex versus protomap: a perspective from the olfactory bulb].

[Article in Spanish]

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Instituto Cajal-CSIC, Madrid, Spain.



The olfactory sensory system is a unique model for the research of guidance and connectivity of growing axons. During development, the olfactory epithelium, the olfactory bulb and the olfactory cortex differentiate several cell types and extend projection axons. Because there is a close relationship between these three structures, we ask the question as to whether establishment of the olfactory bulb central projections can proceed independently of the arrival of the olfactory sensory afferents. This raises another more general question: is establishment of afferent connections necessary to awake a developmental program in target cells?.


The initial establishment of the olfactory bulb central projections occurs independently of the arrival of the olfactory axons from the olfactory epithelium, which reinforces the idea that cortical regions are already patterned before migration of newborn neurons, at least for the olfactory bulb and maybe for the entire brain. This implies a strict intrinsic molecular control of the distinct olfactory structures, independent one of each other.


How then, do axonal projections find their correct way within the brain? Contact-mediated mechanisms and chemotropic molecules cooperate to fix their position in the telencephalon, prevent bulbar axons from invading structures other than the olfactory cortex and, at the same time, stimulate axonal branching in an orchestra of both, attractive/promoting and repulsive/inhibiting signals. At later stages, the mature appearance of the olfactory bulb will be completed and refined.

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