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J Neurosci. 2010 Jul 7;30(27):9271-9. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1502-10.2010.

Early expression of odorant receptors distorts the olfactory circuitry.

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Laboratory of Sensory Biology, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, National Institutes of Health (NIH), Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


The odor response properties of a mammalian olfactory sensory neuron (OSN) are determined by the tightly regulated expression of a single member of a very large family of odorant receptors (ORs). The OR also plays an important role in focusing the central projections of all OSNs expressing that particular receptor to a pair of stereotypic locations (glomeruli) in each olfactory bulb (OB), thus creating a spatial map of odor responses in the brain. Here we show that when initiated late in neural development, transgenic expression of one OR in almost all OSNs has little influence on the architecture of the OB in mice. In contrast, early OR-transgene expression (mediated by the Ggamma8-promoter) in 50-70% of OSNs grossly distorts the morphology of glomeruli and alters the projection patterns of many residual OSNs not expressing the transgene. Interestingly, this disruption of targeting persists in adult animals despite the downregulation of Ggamma8 and transgenic OR expression that occurs as olfactory neurogenesis declines. Indeed, functional imaging studies reveal a dramatic decrease in the complexity of responses to odorants in adult Ggamma8-transgenic OR mice. Thus, we show that initiation of transgenic OR expression early in the development of OSNs, rather than just the extent of transgene expression, determines its effectiveness at modifying OB anatomy and function. Together, these data imply that OR-expression timing needs to be very tightly controlled to achieve the precise wiring and function of the mammalian olfactory system.

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