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J Neurophysiol. 1999 Jan;81(1):345-55.

Synaptic organization and neurotransmitters in the rat accessory olfactory bulb.

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Section of Neurobiology, Yale Medical School, New Haven, Connecticut 06510, USA.


The accessory olfactory bulb (AOB) is the first relay station in the vomeronasal system and may play a critical role in processing pheromone signals. The AOB shows similar but less distinct lamination compared with the main olfactory bulb (MOB). In this study, synaptic organization of the AOB was analyzed in slice preparations from adult rats by using both field potential and patch-clamp recordings. Stimulation of the vomeronasal nerve (VN) evoked field potentials that showed characteristic patterns in different layers of the AOB. Current source density (CSD) analysis of the field potentials revealed spatiotemporally separated loci of inward current (sinks) that represented sequential activation of different neuronal components: VN activity (period I), synaptic excitation of mitral cell apical dendrites (period II), and activation of granule cells by mitral cell basal dendrites (period III). Stimulation of the lateral olfactory tract also evoked field potentials in the AOB, which indicated antidromic activation of the mitral cells (period I and II) followed by activation of granule cells (period III). Whole cell patch recordings from mitral and granule cells of the AOB supported that mitral cells are excited by VN terminals and subsequently activate granule cells through dendrodendritic synapses. Both CSD analysis and patch recordings provided evidence that glutamate is the neurotransmitter at the vomeronasal receptor neuron; mitral cell synapses and both NMDA and non-NMDA receptors are involved. We also demonstrated electrophysiologically that reciprocal interaction between mitral and granule cells in the AOB is through the dendrodendritic reciprocal synapses. The neurotransmitter at the mitral-to-granule synapses is glutamate and at the granule-to-mitral synapse is gamma-aminobutyric acid. The synaptic interactions among receptor cell terminals, mitral cells, and granule cells in the AOB are therefore similar to those in the MOB, suggesting that processing of chemosensory information in the AOB shares similarities with that in the MOB.

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