Larval sea lamprey inhabit freshwater streams and migrate to oceans or lakes to feed after a radical metamorphosis; subsequently, mature adults return to streams to spawn. Previous observations suggested that lamprey utilize the odor of conspecific larvae to select streams for spawning. Here we report biochemical and electrophysiological evidence that this odor is comprised of two unique bile acids released by larvae. High performance liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry demonstrated that larval sea lamprey produce and release two unique bile acids, allocholic acid (ACA) and petromyzonol sulfate (PS). Electro-olfactogram (EOG) recording also demonstrated that the olfactory system of migratory adult sea lamprey is acutely and specifically sensitive to ACA and PS; detection thresholds for these compounds were approximately 10(-12) M. ACA and PS were the most potent of 38 bile acids tested and cross-adaptation experiments suggested that adult sea lamprey have specific olfactory receptor sites associated with independent signal transduction pathways for these bile acids. These receptor sites specifically recognize the key substituents of ACA and PS such as a 5 alpha-hydrogen, three axial hydroxyls, and a C-24 sulfate ester or carboxyl. In conclusion, the unique lamprey bile acids, ACA and PS, are potent and specific stimulants of the adult olfactory system, strongly supporting the hypothesis that these unique bile acids function as migratory pheromones in lamprey.
Many animals use their olfactory systems to learn to avoid dangers, but how neural circuits encode naïve and learned olfactory preferences, and switch between those preferences, is poorly understood. Here, we map an olfactory network, from sensory input to motor output, which regulates the learned olfactory aversion of Caenorhabditis elegans for the smell of pathogenic bacteria. Naïve animals prefer smells of pathogens but animals trained with pathogens lose this attraction. We find that two different neural circuits subserve these preferences, with one required for the naïve preference and the other specifically for the learned preference. Calcium imaging and behavioral analysis reveal that the naïve preference reflects the direct transduction of the activity of olfactory sensory neurons into motor response, whereas the learned preference involves modulations to signal transduction to downstream neurons to alter motor response. Thus, two different neural circuits regulate a behavioral switch between naïve and learned olfactory preferences.
In lampreys, brain stem reticulospinal (RS) neurons constitute the main descending input to the spinal cord and activate the spinal locomotor central pattern generators. Cholinergic nicotinic inputs activate RS neurons, and consequently, induce locomotion. Cholinergic muscarinic agonists also induce locomotion when applied to the brain stem of birds. This study examined whether bath applications of muscarinic agonists could activate RS neurons and initiate motor output in lampreys. Bath applications of 25 μM muscarine elicited sustained, recurring depolarizations (mean duration of 5.0 ± 0.5 s recurring with a mean period of 55.5 ± 10.3 s) in intracellularly recorded rhombencephalic RS neurons. Calcium imaging experiments revealed that muscarine induced oscillations in calcium levels that occurred synchronously within the RS neuron population. Bath application of TTX abolished the muscarine effect, suggesting the sustained depolarizations in RS neurons are driven by other neurons. A series of lesion experiments suggested the caudal half of the rhombencephalon was necessary. Microinjections of muscarine (75 μM) or the muscarinic receptor (mAchR) antagonist atropine (1 mM) lateral to the rostral pole of the posterior rhombencephalic reticular nucleus induced or prevented, respectively, the muscarinic RS neuron response. Cells immunoreactive for muscarinic receptors were found in this region and could mediate this response. Bath application of glutamatergic antagonists (6-cyano-7-nitroquinoxaline-2,3-dione/D-2-amino-5-phosphonovaleric acid) abolished the muscarine effect, suggesting that glutamatergic transmission is needed for the effect. Ventral root recordings showed spinal motor output coincides with RS neuron sustained depolarizations. We propose that unilateral mAchR activation on specific cells in the caudal rhombencephalon activates a circuit that generates synchronous sustained, recurring depolarizations in bilateral populations of RS neurons.
Vertebrate pheromones are known to prime the endocrine system, especially the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis. However, no known pheromone molecule has been shown to modulate directly the synthesis or release of gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH), the main regulator of the HPG axis. We selected sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus) as a model system to determine whether a single pheromone component alters the output of GnRH.
Sea lamprey male sex pheromones contain a main component, 7α, 12α, 24-trihydroxy-5α-cholan-3-one 24-sulfate (3 keto-petromyzonol sulfate or 3kPZS), which has been shown to modulate behaviors of mature females. Through a series of experiments, we tested the hypothesis that 3kPZS modulates both synthesis and release of GnRH, and subsequently, HPG output in immature sea lamprey.
The results showed that natural male pheromone mixtures induced differential steroid responses but facilitated sexual maturation in both sexes of immature animals (χ2 = 5.042, dF = 1, p < 0.05). Exposure to 3kPZS increased plasma 15α-hydroxyprogesterone (15α-P) concentrations (one-way ANOVA, p < 0.05) and brain gene expressions (genes examined: three lamprey (l) GnRH-I transcripts, lGnRH-III, Jun and Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK); one-way ANOVA, p < 0.05), but did not alter the number of GnRH neurons in the hypothalamus in immature animals. In addition, 3kPZS treatments increased lGnRH peptide concentrations in the forebrain and modulated their levels in plasma. Overall, 3kPZS modulation of HPG axis is more pronounced in immature males than in females.
We conclude that a single male pheromone component primes the HPG axis in immature sea lamprey in a sexually dimorphic manner.
Pheromone; Priming; HPG axis; GnRH; Steroid; Sexual dimorphism
Comparative genomics provides a valuable tool for inferring the evolutionary history of physiological systems, particularly when this information is difficult to ascertain by morphological traits. One such example is the vomeronasal system (VNS), a vertebrate nasal chemosensory system that is responsible for detecting intraspecific pheromonal cues as well as environmental odorants. The morphological components of the VNS are found only in tetrapods, but the genetic components of the system have been found in teleost fish, in addition to tetrapods. To determine when the genetic components of the VNS originated, we searched for the VNS-specific genes in the genomes of two early diverging vertebrate lineages: the sea lamprey from jawless fishes and the elephant shark from cartilaginous fishes. Genes encoding vomeronasal type 1 receptors (V1Rs) and Trpc2, two components of the vomeronasal signaling pathway, are present in the sea lamprey genome, and both are expressed in the olfactory organ, revealing that the genetic components of the present-day VNS existed in the common ancestor of all extant vertebrates. Additionally, all three VNS genes, Trpc2, V1Rs, and vomeronasal type 2 receptors (V2Rs), are found in the elephant shark genome. Because V1Rs and V2Rs are related to two families of taste receptors, we also searched the early diverging vertebrate genomes for taste system genes and found them in the shark genome but not in the lamprey. Coupled with known distributions of the genetic components of the vertebrate main olfactory system, our results suggest staggered origins of vertebrate sensory systems. These findings are important for understanding the evolution of vertebrate sensory systems and illustrate the utility of the genome sequences of early diverging vertebrates for uncovering the evolution of vertebrate-specific traits.
Trpc2; V1R; V2R; vomeronasal; lamprey; shark
What makes males and females behave differently? While genetic master-regulators commonly underlie physical differences, sexually dimorphic behavior is additionally influenced by sensory input such as olfactory cues. Olfaction requires both ligands for signaling and sensory neural circuits for detection. Specialized subsets of each interact to generate gender-dimorphic behavior. It has long been accepted that males and females emit sex-specific odor compounds that function as pheromones to promote stereotypic behavior. Significant advances have now been made in purifying and isolating several of these sex-specific olfactory ligands. In contrast, the neural mechanisms that enable a gender dimorphic response to these odors remain largely unknown. However, first progress has been made in identifying components of sexually dimorphic olfactory circuits in both Drosophila and the mouse.
It is widely presumed that odor quality is a direct outcome of odorant
structure, but human studies indicate that molecular knowledge of an odorant is
not always sufficient to predict odor quality. Indeed, the same olfactory input
may generate different odor percepts depending on prior learning and experience.
Combining functional magnetic resonance imaging with an olfactory paradigm of
perceptual learning, we examined how sensory experience modifies odor perception
and odor quality coding in the human brain. Prolonged exposure to a target
odorant enhanced perceptual differentiation for odorants related in odor quality
or functional group, an effect that was paralleled by learning-induced response
increases in piriform cortex and orbitofrontal cortex (OFC). Critically, the
magnitude of OFC activation predicted subsequent improvement in behavioral
differentiation. Our findings suggest that neural representations of odor
quality can be rapidly updated through mere perceptual experience, a mechanism
that may underlie the development of odor perception.
Neural activity underlying odor representations in the mammalian olfactory system is strongly patterned by respiratory behavior; these dynamics are central to many models of olfactory information processing. We have previously found that sensory inputs to the olfactory bulb change both their magnitude and temporal structure as a function of sniff frequency. Here, we asked how sniff frequency affects responses of mitral/tufted (MT) cells – the principal olfactory bulb output neuron. We recorded from MT cells in anesthetized rats while reproducing sniffs recorded previously from awake animals and varying sniff frequency. The dynamics of a sniff-evoked response were consistent from sniff to sniff but varied across cells. Compared to the dynamics of receptor neuron activation by the same sniffs, the MT response was shorter and faster, reflecting a temporal sharpening of sensory inputs. Increasing sniff frequency led to moderate attenuation of MT response magnitude and significant changes in the temporal structure of the sniff-evoked MT cell response. Most MT cells responded with a shorter duration and shorter rise-time spike burst as sniff frequency increased, reflecting increased temporal sharpening of inputs by the olfactory bulb. These temporal changes were necessary and sufficient to maintain respiratory modulation in the MT cell population across the range of sniff frequencies expressed during behavior. These results suggest that the input-output relationship in the olfactory bulb varies dynamically as a function of sniff frequency, and that one function of the postsynaptic network is to maintain robust temporal encoding of odor information across different odor sampling strategies.
For animals to execute odor-driven behaviors, the olfactory system must process complex odor signals and maintain stimulus identity in the face of constantly changing odor intensities [1–5]. Surprisingly, how the olfactory system maintains identity of complex odors is unclear [6–10]. We took advantage of the plant-pollinator relationship between the Sacred Datura (Datura wrightii) and the moth Manduca sexta [11, 12] to determine how olfactory networks in this insect’s brain represent odor mixtures. We combined gas chromatography and neural-ensemble recording in the moth’s antennal lobe to examine population codes for the floral mixture and its fractionated components. Although the floral scent of D. wrightii comprises at least 60 compounds, only nine of those elicited robust neural responses. Behavioral experiments confirmed that these nine odorants mediate flower-foraging behaviors, but only as a mixture. Moreover, the mixture evoked equivalent foraging behaviors over a 1000-fold range in dilution, suggesting a singular percept across this concentration range. Furthermore, neural-ensemble recordings in the moth’s antennal lobe revealed that reliable encoding of the floral mixture is organized through synchronized activity distributed across a population of glomerular coding units, and this timing mechanism may bind the features of a complex stimulus into a coherent odor percept.
Here we describe several fundamental principles of olfactory processing in the Drosophila antennal lobe (the analog of the vertebrate olfactory bulb), based on a systematic analysis of input and output spike trains of seven identified glomeruli. Repeated presentations of the same odor elicit more reproducible responses in second-order projection neurons (PNs) than in their presynaptic olfactory receptor neurons (ORNs). PN responses rise and accommodate rapidly, emphasizing odor onset. Furthermore, weak ORN inputs are amplified in the PN layer but strong inputs are not. This nonlinear transformation broadens PN tuning, and produces more uniform distances between odor representations in PN coding space. Additionally, a portion of a PN’s odor response profile is not systematically related to its direct ORN inputs, likely reflecting lateral connections between glomeruli. Finally, we show that a linear discriminator classifies odors more accurately using PN spike trains as compared to an equivalent number of ORN spike trains.
To gain insight into which parameters of neural activity are important in shaping the perception of odors, we combined a behavioral measure of odor perception with optical imaging of odor representations at the level of receptor neuron input to the rat olfactory bulb. Instead of the typical test of an animal's ability to discriminate two familiar odorants by exhibiting an operant response, we used a spontaneously expressed response to a novel odorant—exploratory sniffing—as a measure of odor perception. This assay allowed us to measure the speed with which rats perform spontaneous odor discriminations. With this paradigm, rats discriminated and began responding to a novel odorant in as little as 140 ms. This time is comparable to that measured in earlier studies using operant behavioral readouts after extensive training. In a subset of these trials, we simultaneously imaged receptor neuron input to the dorsal olfactory bulb with near-millisecond temporal resolution as the animal sampled and then responded to the novel odorant. The imaging data revealed that the bulk of the discrimination time can be attributed to the peripheral events underlying odorant detection: receptor input arrives at the olfactory bulb 100–150 ms after inhalation begins, leaving only 50–100 ms for central processing and response initiation. In most trials, odor discrimination had occurred even before the initial barrage of receptor neuron firing had ceased and before spatial maps of activity across glomeruli had fully developed. These results suggest a coding strategy in which the earliest-activated glomeruli play a major role in the initial perception of odor quality, and place constraints on coding and processing schemes based on simple changes in spike rate.
Olfactory stimuli elicit temporally complex patterns of activity across groups of receptor neurons as well as across central neurons. It remains unclear which parameters among these complex activity patterns are important in shaping odor perception. To address this issue, we imaged from the olfactory bulb of awake rats as they detected and responded to odorants. We used a spontaneously expressed response to novel odorants—exploratory sniffing—as a behavioral measure of odor perception. This assay allowed us to measure the speed with which rats perform simple odor discriminations by monitoring changes in respiration. Rats discriminated a novel odorant from a learned one in as little as 140 ms. Simultaneously imaging the sensory input to the olfactory bulb carried by receptor neurons revealed that the bulk of the response time is due to the peripheral events underlying odorant detection (inhalation and receptor neuron activation), leaving only 50–100 ms for central processing and response initiation. In most trials, responses to a novel odorant began before the initial barrage of input had ceased and before spatial patterns of input to the bulb had fully developed. These results suggest a coding strategy in which the earliest inputs play a major role in the initial perception of odor quality and place constraints on coding schemes based on simple changes in firing rate.
Imaging the olfactory bulb of awake rats reveals that odor discrimination occurs about 100 ms after sensory input reaches the brain, sharply limiting the role that spike rate and temporal integration can play in coding odor identity.
In gnathostomes, chemosensory receptors (CR) expressed in olfactory epithelia are encoded by evolutionarily dynamic gene families encoding odorant receptors (OR), trace amine-associated receptors (TAAR), V1Rs and V2Rs. A limited number of OR-like sequences have been found in invertebrate chordate genomes. Whether these gene families arose in basal or advanced vertebrates has not been resolved because these families have not been examined systematically in agnathan genomes.
Petromyzon is the only extant jawless vertebrate whose genome has been sequenced. Known to be exquisitely sensitive to several classes of odorants, lampreys detect fewer amino acids and steroids than teleosts. This reduced number of detectable odorants is indicative of reduced numbers of CR gene families or a reduced number of genes within CR families, or both, in the sea lamprey. In the lamprey genome we identified a repertoire of 59 intact single-exon CR genes, including 27 OR, 28 TAAR, and four V1R-like genes. These three CR families were expressed in the olfactory organ of both parasitic and adult life stages.
An extensive search in the lamprey genome failed to identify potential orthologs or pseudogenes of the multi-exon V2R family that is greatly expanded in teleost genomes, but did find intact calcium-sensing receptors (CASR) and intact metabotropic glutamate receptors (MGR). We conclude that OR and V1R arose in chordates after the cephalochordate-urochordate split, but before the diversification of jawed and jawless vertebrates. The advent and diversification of V2R genes from glutamate receptor-family G protein-coupled receptors, most likely the CASR, occurred after the agnathan-gnathostome divergence.
The neural substrates of olfactory working memory are unknown. We addressed the questions of whether olfactory working memory involves a verbal representation of the odor, or a sensory image of the odor, or both, and the location of the neural substrates of these processes.
We used functional magnetic resonance imaging to measure activity in the brains of subjects who were remembering either nameable or unnameable odorants. We found a double dissociation whereby remembering nameable odorants was reflected in sustained activity in prefrontal language areas, and remembering unnameable odorants was reflected in sustained activity in primary olfactory cortex.
These findings suggest a novel dedicated mechanism in primary olfactory cortex, where odor information is maintained in temporary storage to subserve ongoing tasks.
Cholinergic inputs to cortical processing networks have long been associated with attentional and top-down processing. Experimental and theoretical studies suggest that cholinergic inputs to the main olfactory bulb (OB) can modulate both neural and behavioral odor discrimination. Previous experiments from our laboratory and others demonstrate that blockade of nicotinic receptors directly impairs olfactory discrimination, whereas blockade of muscarinic receptors only measurably impairs olfactory perception when task demands are made more challenging, such as when very low-concentration odors are used or rats are required to maintain sensory memory over long durations. To further investigate the role of muscarinic signaling in the OB, we developed an olfactory delayed match-to-sample task using a digging-based behavioral paradigm. We find that rats are able to maintain robust short-term odor memory for 10–100 s. To investigate the role of muscarinic signaling in task performance, we bilaterally infused scopolamine into the OB. We find that high dosages of scopolamine (38 mM) impair performance on the task across all delays tested, including the baseline condition with no delay, whereas lower dosages (7.6 mM and 22.8 mM) had no measureable effects. These results indicate that general execution of the match-to-sample task, even with no delay, is at least partially dependent on muscarinic signaling in the OB.
acetylcholine; scopolamine; delayed match-to-sample; olfactory bulb; olfaction
Despite a remarkably precise spatial representation of odorant stimuli in the early stages of olfactory processing, the projections to the olfactory (piriform) cortex are more diffuse and show characteristics of a combinatorial array, with extensive overlap of afferent inputs and widespread intracortical association connections. Furthermore, although there is increasing evidence for the importance of temporal structure in olfactory bulb odorant-evoked output, little is known about how this temporal patterning is translated within cortical neural ensembles. The present study used multichannel electrode arrays and paired single-unit recordings in rat anterior piriform cortex to test several predictions regarding ensemble coding in this system. The results indicate that odorants evoke activity in a spatially scattered ensemble of anterior piriform cortex neurons, and the ensemble activity includes a rich temporal structure. The most pronounced discrimination between different odorants by cortical ensembles occurs during the first inhalation of a 2 s stimulus. The distributed spatial and temporal structure of cortical activity is present at both global and local scales, with neighboring single units contributing to coding of different odorants and active at different phases of the respiratory cycle. Finally, cross-correlogram analyses suggest that cortical unit activity reflects not only afferent input from the olfactory bulb but also intrinsic activity within the intracortical association fiber system. These results provide direct evidence for predictions stemming from anatomical- and theoretical-based models of piriform cortex.
microelectrode arrays; olfactory cortex; neural ensembles; cross-correlation; olfaction; odor perception; memory
The association between gestational exposure to ethanol and adolescent ethanol abuse is well established. Recent animal studies support the role of fetal ethanol experience-induced chemosensory plasticity as contributing to this observation. Previously, we established that fetal ethanol exposure, delivered through a dam’s diet throughout gestation, tuned the neural response of the peripheral olfactory system of early postnatal rats to the odor of ethanol. This occurred in conjunction with a loss of responsiveness to other odorants. The instinctive behavioral response to the odor of ethanol was also enhanced. Importantly, there was a significant contributory link between the altered response to the odor of ethanol and increased ethanol avidity when assessed in the same animals. Here, we tested whether the neural and behavioral olfactory plasticity, and their relationship to enhanced ethanol intake, is a result of the mere exposure to ethanol or whether it requires the animal to associate ethanol’s reinforcing properties with its odor attributes. In this later respect, the opioid system is important in the mediation (or modulation) of the reinforcing aspects of ethanol. To block endogenous opiates during prenatal life, pregnant rats received daily intraperitoneal administration of the opiate antagonist naltrexone from gestational day 6–21 jointly with ethanol delivered via diet. Relative to control progeny, we found that gestational exposure to naltrexone ameliorated the enhanced postnatal behavioral response to the odor of ethanol and postnatal drug avidity. Our findings support the proposition that in utero ethanol-induced olfactory plasticity (and its relationship to postnatal intake) requires, at least in part, the associative pairing between ethanol’s odor quality and its reinforcing aspects. We also found suggestive evidence that fetal naltrexone ameliorated the untoward effects of gestational ethanol exposure on the neural response to non-fetal-exposure odorants. Thus, gestational naltrexone may also have a neuroprotective and/or neuroproliferative impact on olfactory development.
naltrexone; fetal ethanol exposure; ethanol intake; olfactory plasticity; odor preference; flavor perception
Experimental and modeling data suggest that the circuitry of the main olfactory bulb (OB) plays a critical role in olfactory discrimination. Processing of such information arises from the interaction between OB output neurons local interneurons, as well as interactions between the OB network and centrifugal inputs. Cholinergic input to the OB in particular has been hypothesized to regulate mitral cell odorants receptive fields (ORFs) and behavioral discrimination of similar odorants. We recorded from individual mitral cells in the OB in anesthetized rats in order to determine the degree of overlap in ORFs of individual mitral cells following exposure to odorant stimuli. Increasing the efficacy of the cholinergic neurotransmission in the OB by addition of the anticholinesterase drug neostigmine (20mM) sharpened the olfactory receptive field (ORF) responses of mitral cells. Furthermore, co-addition of either the nicotinic antagonist MLA (20mM) or muscarinic antagonist scopolamine (40mM) together with neostigmine (20mM) attenuated the neostigmine-dependent sharpening of ORF. These electrophysiological findings are predictive of accompanying behavioral experiments in which cholinergic modulation was manipulated by direct infusion of neostigmine, MLA and scopolamine into the OB during olfactory behavioral tasks. Increasing the efficacy of cholinergic action in the OB increased perceptual discrimination of odorants in these experiments, whereas blockade of nicotinic or muscarinic receptors decreased perceptual discrimination. These experiments show that behavioral discrimination is modulated in a manner predicted by the changes in mitral cell ORFs by cholinergic drugs. These results together present a first direct comparison between neural and perceptual effects of a bulbar neuromodulator.
Olfactory; Acetylcholine [Ach]; Basal Forebrain; Behavior; Neuromodulation; Receptive Field
A variety of unnatural bile acid derivatives (9a–9f) were synthesized and used to examine the specificity with which the sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus) olfactory system detects these compounds. These compounds are analogs of petromyzonol sulfate (PS, 1), a component of the sea lamprey migratory pheromone. Both the stereochemical configuration at C5 (i.e., 5α vs. 5β) and the extent and sites of oxygenation (hydroxylation or ketonization) of the bile acid derived steroid skeleton were evaluated by screening the compounds for olfactory activity using electro-olfactogram recording. 5β-Petromyzonol sulfate (9a) elicited a considerable olfactory response at sub-nanomolar concentration. In addition, less oxygenated systems (i.e., 9b–9e) elicited olfactory responses, albeit with less potency. The sea lamprey sex pheromone mimic 9f (5β-3-ketopetromyzonol sulfate) was also examined and found to produce a much lower olfactory response. Mixture studies conducted with 9a and PS (1) suggest that stimulation is occurring via similar modes of activation, demonstrating a relative lack of specificity for recognition of the allo-configuration (i.e., 5α) in sea lamprey olfaction. This attribute could facilitate design of pheromone analogs to control this invasive species.
steroid synthesis; olfactory SAR; pheromone; bile acid sulfates
Birds are anosmic or at best microsmatic… This misbelief persisted until very recently and has strongly influenced the outcome of communication studies in birds, with olfaction remaining neglected as compared to acoustic and visual channels. However, there is now clear empirical evidence showing that olfaction is perfectly functional in birds and birds use olfactory information in a variety of ethological contexts. Although the existence of pheromones has never been formally demonstrated in this vertebrate class, different groups of birds, such as petrels, auklets and ducks have been shown to produce specific scents that could play a significant role in within-species social interactions. Behavioral experiments have indeed demonstrated that these odors influence the behavior of conspecifics. Additionally, in quail, deprivation of olfactory inputs decreases neuronal activation induced by sexual interactions with a female. It seems therefore well established that birds enjoy a functional sense of smell and a fast growing body of experimental evidence suggests that they use this channel of olfactory communication to control their social life. The unequivocal identification of an avian pheromone is, however, still ahead of us but there are now many exciting opportunities to unravel the behavioral and physiological particularities of chemical communication in birds.
avian olfaction; ducks; Japanese quail; Procellariiforms; auklets; immediate early gene; kin recognition; sex recognition; homing; self-odor; MHC; chemosensory information
Neural representations of odors are subject to computations that involve sequentially convergent and divergent anatomical connections across different areas of the brains in both mammals and insects. Furthermore, in both mammals and insects higher order brain areas are connected via feedback connections. In order to understand the transformations and interactions that this connectivity make possible, an ideal experiment would compare neural responses across different, sequential processing levels. Here we present results of recordings from a first order olfactory neuropile – the antennal lobe (AL) – and a higher order multimodal integration and learning center – the mushroom body (MB) – in the honey bee brain. We recorded projection neurons (PN) of the AL and extrinsic neurons (EN) of the MB, which provide the outputs from the two neuropils. Recordings at each level were made in different animals in some experiments and simultaneously in the same animal in others. We presented two odors and their mixture to compare odor response dynamics as well as classification speed and accuracy at each neural processing level. Surprisingly, the EN ensemble significantly starts separating odor stimuli rapidly and before the PN ensemble has reached significant separation. Furthermore the EN ensemble at the MB output reaches a maximum separation of odors between 84–120 ms after odor onset, which is 26 to 133 ms faster than the maximum separation at the AL output ensemble two synapses earlier in processing. It is likely that a subset of very fast PNs, which respond before the ENs, may initiate the rapid EN ensemble response. We suggest therefore that the timing of the EN ensemble activity would allow retroactive integration of its signal into the ongoing computation of the AL via centrifugal feedback.
The accessory olfactory system is present in most tetrapods. It is involved in the perception of chemical stimuli, being implicated also in the detection of pheromones. However, it is sensitive also to some common odorant molecules, which have no clear implication in intraspecific chemical communication. The accessory olfactory system may complement the main olfactory system and may contribute different perceptual features to the construction of a unitary representation, which merges the different chemosensory qualities. Crosstalk between the main and accessory olfactory systems occurs at different levels of central processing, in brain areas where the inputs from the two systems converge. Interestingly, centrifugal projections from more caudal brain areas are deeply involved in modulating both main and accessory sensory processing. A high degree of interaction between the two systems may be conceived and partial overlapping appears to occur in many functions. Therefore, the central chemosensory projections merge inputs from different organs to obtain a complex chemosensory picture.
vomeronasal organ; nose; olfaction; pheromones
In either the vertebrate nose or the insect antenna, most olfactory receptor neurons (ORNs) respond to multiple odors. However, some ORNs respond to just a single odor, or at most to a few highly related odors. It has been hypothesized that narrowly-tuned ORNs project to narrowly-tuned neurons in the brain, and that these dedicated circuits mediate innate behavioral responses to a particular ligand. Here we have investigated neural activity and behavior downstream from two narrowly-tuned ORN types in Drosophila. We found that genetically ablating either of these ORN types impairs innate behavioral attraction to their cognate ligand. Neurons in the antennal lobe postsynaptic to one of these ORN types are, like their presynaptic ORNs, narrowly tuned to a pheromone. However, neurons postsynaptic to the second ORN type are broadly tuned. These results demonstrate that some narrowly-tuned ORNs project to dedicated central circuits, ensuring a tight connection between stimulus and behavior, whereas others project to central neurons which participate in the ensemble representations of many odors.
Early in evolution, the ability to sense and respond to changing environments must have provided a critical survival advantage to living organisms. From bacteria and worms to flies and vertebrates, sophisticated mechanisms have evolved to enhance odor detection and localization. Here, we review several modes of chemotaxis. We further consider the relevance of a striking and recurrent motif in the organization of invertebrate and vertebrate sensory systems, namely the existence of two symmetrical olfactory sensors. By combining our current knowledge about the olfactory circuits of larval and adult Drosophila, we examine the molecular and neural mechanisms underlying robust olfactory perception and extend these analyses to recent behavioral studies addressing the relevance and function of bilateral olfactory input for gradient detection. Finally, using a comparative theoretical approach based on Braitenberg's vehicles, we speculate about the relationships between anatomy, circuit architecture and stereotypical orientation behaviors.
drosophila melanogaster; olfaction; bilateral; chemotaxis; orientation behavior; sensory perception
Odorants are represented as spatiotemporal patterns of spikes in neurons of the antennal lobe (AL, insects) and olfactory bulb (OB, vertebrates). These response patterns have been thought to arise primarily from interactions within the AL/OB, an idea supported, in part, by the assumption that olfactory receptor neurons (ORNs) respond to odorants with simple firing patterns. However, activating the AL directly with simple pulses of current evoked responses in AL neurons that were much less diverse, complex, and enduring than responses elicited by odorants. Similarly, models of the AL driven by simplistic inputs generated relatively simple output. How then are dynamic neural codes for odors generated? Consistent with recent results from several other species, our recordings from locust ORNs showed a great diversity of temporal structure. Further, we found that, viewed as a population, many response features of ORNs were remarkably similar to those observed within the AL. Using a set of computational models constrained by our electrophysiological recordings, we found that the temporal heterogeneity of responses of ORNs critically underlies the generation of spatiotemporal odor codes in the AL. A test then performed in vivo confirmed that, given temporally homogeneous input, the AL cannot create diverse spatiotemporal patterns on its own; however, given temporally heterogeneous input, the AL generated realistic firing patterns. Finally, given the temporally structured input provided by ORNs, we clarified several separate, additional contributions of the AL to olfactory information processing. Thus, our results demonstrate the origin and subsequent reformatting of spatiotemporal neural codes for odors.
temporal; spike trains; sensory neurons; chemosensory; input; interneurons; antenna
Hedgehog (Hh) genes play major roles in animal development and studies of their evolution, expression and function point to major differences among chordates. Here we focused on Hh genes in lampreys in order to characterize the evolution of Hh signalling at the emergence of vertebrates. Screening of a cosmid library of the river lamprey Lampetra fluviatilis and searching the preliminary genome assembly of the sea lamprey Petromyzon marinus indicate that lampreys have two Hh genes, named Hha and Hhb. Phylogenetic analyses suggest that Hha and Hhb are lamprey-specific paralogs closely related to Sonic/Indian Hh genes. Expression analysis indicates that Hha and Hhb are expressed in a Sonic Hh-like pattern. The two transcripts are expressed in largely overlapping but not identical domains in the lamprey embryonic brain, including a newly-described expression domain in the nasohypophyseal placode. Global alignments of genomic sequences and local alignment with known gnathostome regulatory motifs show that lamprey Hhs share conserved non-coding elements (CNE) with gnathostome Hhs albeit with sequences that have significantly diverged and dispersed. Functional assays using zebrafish embryos demonstrate gnathostome-like midline enhancer activity for CNEs contained in intron2. We conclude that lamprey Hh genes are gnathostome Shh-like in terms of expression and regulation. In addition, they show some lamprey-specific features, including duplication and structural (but not functional) changes in the intronic/regulatory sequences.