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J Comp Neurol. 1981 Apr 1;197(2):237-57.

Ultrastructural changes in olfactory receptor neurons following olfactory nerve section.


Unilateral olfactory nerve section was performed in the salamander, Ambystoma tigrinum. An ultrastructural study was performed to investigate the changes occurring during degeneration and replacement of the mature olfactory receptor neurons. Experimental and contralateral control tissues were examined following postoperative survival periods ranging from 12 hours to 90 days. Normal bipolar receptor neurons have a fusiform cell body containing a thin rim of cytoplasm and an ovoid nucleus with a characteristic "checkerboard" chromatin pattern. A single apical dendrite projects to the surface of the epithelium, where numerous cilia extend from its apex into the overlying mucus. A single, unmyelinated, unbranching axon originates at the basal pole of the cell. After nerve section, retrograde degeneration of the mature neurons occurs. Early degenerative changes include pronounced condensation of the nuclear chromatin, increased number of nuclear membrane infoldings, and dilation of the space between the membranes of the nuclear envelope. At a later stage, the cytoplasm of the cell increases in volume and its organelle systems break down, resulting in accumulation of various forms of cell inclusions. Subsequently, proliferation of cells in the basal region of the epithelium occurs. Between 3 week and 2 months following nerve section, these cells differentiate into mature neurons. By 3 months, neurons within the epithelium have resumed their normal ultrastructure. Correlation of the time course of the ultrastructural changes with previously reported neurophysiological studies indicates that neuronal activity of the epithelium is dependent upon the presence of fully differentiated olfactory receptor neurons.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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