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Nat Neurosci. 2012 Mar 25;15(5):754-62. doi: 10.1038/nn.3074.

Mitochondrial Ca(2+) mobilization is a key element in olfactory signaling.

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Department of Chemosensation, Institute for Biology II, Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule Aachen University, Aachen, Germany.


In olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs), cytosolic Ca(2+) controls the gain and sensitivity of olfactory signaling. Important components of the molecular machinery that orchestrates OSN Ca(2+) dynamics have been described, but key details are still missing. Here, we demonstrate a critical physiological role of mitochondrial Ca(2+) mobilization in mouse OSNs. Combining a new mitochondrial Ca(2+) imaging approach with patch-clamp recordings, organelle mobility assays and ultrastructural analyses, our study identifies mitochondria as key determinants of olfactory signaling. We show that mitochondrial Ca(2+) mobilization during sensory stimulation shapes the cytosolic Ca(2+) response profile in OSNs, ensures a broad dynamic response range and maintains sensitivity of the spike generation machinery. When mitochondrial function is impaired, olfactory neurons function as simple stimulus detectors rather than as intensity encoders. Moreover, we describe activity-dependent recruitment of mitochondria to olfactory knobs, a mechanism that provides a context-dependent tool for OSNs to maintain cellular homeostasis and signaling integrity.

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