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J Comp Neurol. 1998 Nov 2;400(4):469-86.

Adult olfactory epithelium contains multipotent progenitors that give rise to neurons and non-neural cells.

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Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, SUNY Health Science Center, Syracuse, New York 13210, USA.


We have infused replication-incompetent retroviral vectors into the nasal cavity of adult rats 1 day after exposure to the olfactotoxic gas methyl bromide (MeBr) to assess the lineage relationships of cells in the regenerating olfactory epithelium. The vast majority of the retrovirus-labeled clones fall into three broad categories: clones that invariably contain globose basal cells (GBCs) and/or neurons, clones that always include cells in the ducts of Bowman's glands, and clones that are composed of sustentacular cells only. Many of the GBC-related clones contain sustentacular cells and horizontal basal cells as well. Most of the duct-related clones contain gland cells, and some also include sustentacular cells. Thus, the destruction of both neurons and non-neuronal cells that is caused by MeBr activates two distinct types of multipotent cells. The multipotent progenitor that gives rise to neurons and non-neuronal cells is a basal cell, whereas the progenitor that gives rise to duct, gland, and sustentacular cells resides within the ducts, based on the pattern of sparing after lesion and the analysis of early regeneration by using cell type-specific markers. We conclude that the balance between multipotency and selective neuropotency, which is characteristic of globose basal cells in the normal olfactory epithelium, is determined by which cell types have been depleted and need to be replenished rapidly.

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