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J Neurophysiol. 1991 Jul;66(1):112-30.

Responses of olfactory receptor cells of spiny lobsters to binary mixtures. I. Intensity mixture interactions.

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Department of Biology, Georgia State University, Atlanta 30302-4010.


1. Neural coding of chemical mixtures was studied with the use of the peripheral olfactory system of the spiny lobster. The occurrence of mixture interactions (i.e., where the observed response to a mixture deviates significantly from the expected response) in individual cells and the effect of such mixture interactions on the coding of odorant intensity by populations of cells were examined. 2. Extracellular recordings of spiking activity of 98 primary olfactory receptor cells in the antennules were measured in response to seven compounds [adenosine-5'-monophosphate (AMP), betaine (Bet), L-cysteine (Cys), L-glutamate (Glu), ammonium chloride (NH4), DL-succinate (Suc), and taurine (Tau)] and their binary mixtures. To identify mixture interactions, observed responses to a range of concentrations of a binary mixture were compared with the predicted responses based on three mathematical models: a single receptor model, which assumes that the two compounds of a mixture bind to the same receptor site; a multiple receptor model, which assumes that the two compounds bind to two independent receptor sites; and a mixed composition receptor model, which incorporates our current state of knowledge of transduction processes in olfactory receptor cells of spiny lobsters. 3. Mixture interactions in individual cells were common: statistically significant mixture interactions were observed in 25% of the possible cases (Fig. 5). Suppression was much more common than enhancement. 4. Mixture interactions had significant effects on the absolute response magnitudes for a population of cells, which could be used as the neural code for stimulus intensity in this system. These effects are called intensity mixture interactions (Figs. 6-11). Intensity mixture interactions occurred for approximately 50% of the binary mixtures and were almost exclusively suppression (Figs. 12 and 13). The intensity mixture interactions were concentration independent. 5. The results suggest that mixture interactions in individual olfactory cells can result in intensity mixture interactions in the neuronal population such that there is a decrease in sensitivity to binary mixtures relative to what is expected based on the responses to individual components of the mixtures.

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