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Histochem Cell Biol. 2005 Jun;123(4-5):419-28. Epub 2005 May 3.

Formation and maturation of olfactory cilia monitored by odorant receptor-specific antibodies.

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Institute of Physiology (230), University of Hohenheim, Garbenstrasse 30, 70599 Stuttgart, Germany.


The responsiveness of olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs) is based on odorant receptors (ORs) residing in the membrane of chemosensory cilia. It is still elusive as to when and how olfactory cilia are equipped with OR proteins rendering them responsive to odorants. To monitor the appearance of OR proteins in sensory compartments of OSNs, the olfactory epithelium of mice at various stages of prenatal development (lasting 19 days from conception) was investigated using immunohistochemical approaches and antibodies specific for different OR subtypes. These experiments uncovered that OR proteins accumulated in dendritic knobs of OSNs before the initiation of ciliogenesis (embryonic stage E12). As the first cilia were formed (E13), immunostaining in the knobs diminished. Cilia extended uprightly into the nasal cavity and were immunoreactive along the entire length, and particularly intense labeling was observed in expanded tips of cilia. During this phase of development (up to E18), the number of cilia per knob continuously increased. In the course of perinatal stages, longer cilia began to bend off and lie flat on the epithelial surface. The multiple cilia of a knob extended in length, and eventually the ciliary "meshwork" reached the characteristic complex pattern. In all stages, OR immunostaining was visible along the entire cilium. Thus, OR-specific antibodies allowed, for the first time, monitoring at the level of light microscopy the generation, outgrowth, and maturation of cilia in OSNs.

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