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Science. 2007 Aug 17;317(5840):953-7.

Detection of near-atmospheric concentrations of CO2 by an olfactory subsystem in the mouse.

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National Institute of Biological Sciences, Beijing, 102206, China.


Carbon dioxide (CO2) is an important environmental cue for many organisms but is odorless to humans. It remains unclear whether the mammalian olfactory system can detect CO2 at concentrations around the average atmospheric level (0.038%). We demonstrated the expression of carbonic anhydrase type II (CAII), an enzyme that catabolizes CO2, in a subset of mouse olfactory neurons that express guanylyl cyclase D (GC-D+ neurons) and project axons to necklace glomeruli in the olfactory bulb. Exposure to CO2 activated these GC-D+ neurons, and exposure of a mouse to CO2 activated bulbar neurons associated with necklace glomeruli. Behavioral tests revealed CO2 detection thresholds of approximately 0.066%, and this sensitive CO2 detection required CAII activity. We conclude that mice detect CO2 at near-atmospheric concentrations through the olfactory subsystem of GC-D+ neurons.

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