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Biophys J. 1980 Mar;29(3):397-411.

The location of olfactory receptor sites. Inferences from latency measurements.


Excitatory responses recorded from vertebrate olfactory sensory neurons are characterized by long latencies compared with those from other sensory receptors. Explanations which assume free access of the stimuli to receptor molecules presumably located on the olfactory cilia necessarily imply an intrinsic delay in the transduction mechanism. In contrast, the possibility of restricted or delayed access due to diffusion of the stimulus to molecular receptors located on the dendritic know or proximal portions of the cilia suggests transduction processes having time courses similar to those in other sensory systems. We show that the threshold stimulus concentrations and the latency of the excitatory response of the salamander can be predicted primarily on the basis of a diffusional delay and that the receptor molecules are well below the surface of the mucus. Examination of response latencies for other species reported in the literature support the generality of diffusional delay. The predicted location of molecular receptor sites is largely insensitive to assumptions based on the mode of clearance of the stimuli. Additional access restrictions are discussed but are shown to generate qualitatively different latency functions than does diffusion, suggesting that they exert only minor influences on latency and threshold characteristics.

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