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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 Jul 10;104(28):11826-31. Epub 2007 Jun 27.

Propagation of olfactory information in Drosophila.

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Division of Biological Sciences, University of California at San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, Bonner Hall 2206, La Jolla, CA 92093-0368, USA.


Investigating how information propagates between layers in the olfactory system is an important step toward understanding the olfactory code. Each glomerular output projection neuron (PN) receives two sources of input: the olfactory receptor neurons (ORNs) of the same glomerulus and interneurons that innervate many glomeruli. We therefore asked how these inputs interact to produce PN output. We used receptor gene mutations to silence all of the ORNs innervating a specific glomerulus and recorded PN activity with two-photon calcium imaging and electrophysiology. We found evidence for balanced excitatory and inhibitory synaptic inputs but saw little or no response in the absence of direct ORN input. We next asked whether any transformation of activity occurs at successive layers of the antennal lobe. We found a strong link between PN firing and dendritic calcium elevation, the latter of which is tightly correlated with calcium activity in ORN axons, supporting the idea of glomerular propagation of olfactory information. Finally, we showed that odors are represented by a sparse population of PNs. Together, these results are consistent with the idea that direct receptor input provides the main excitatory drive to PNs, whereas interneurons modulate PN output. Balanced excitatory and inhibitory interneuron input may provide a mechanism to adjust PN sensitivity.

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