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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1996 Mar 19;93(6):2365-9.

Evidence for distinct signaling mechanisms in two mammalian olfactory sense organs.

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Department of Neurobiology, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


In mammals, olfactory stimuli are detected by sensory neurons at two distinct sites: the olfactory epithelium (OE) of the nasal cavity and the neuroepithelium of the vomeronasal organ (VNO). While the OE can detect volatile chemicals released from numerous sources, the VNO appears to be specialized to detect pheromones that are emitted by other animals and that convey information of behavioral or physiological importance. The mechanisms underlying sensory transduction in the OE have been well studied and a number of components of the transduction cascade have been cloned. Here, we investigated sensory transduction in the VNO by asking whether VNO neurons express molecules that have been implicated in sensory transduction in the OE. Using in situ hybridization and Northern blot analyses, we found that most of the olfactory transduction components examined, including the guanine nucleotide binding protein alpha subunit (G-alpha-olf), adenylyl cyclase type III, and an olfactory cyclic nucleotide-gated (CNG) channel subunit (oCNC1), are not expressed by VNO sensory neurons. In contrast, VNO neurons do express a second olfactory CNG channel subunit (oCNC2). These results indicate that VNO sensory transduction is distinct from that in the OE but raise the possibility that, like OE sensory transduction, sensory transduction in the VNO might involve cyclic nucleotide-gated ion channels.

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