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1.  Olfactory epithelium changes in germfree mice 
Scientific Reports  2016;6:24687.
Intestinal epithelium development is dramatically impaired in germfree rodents, but the consequences of the absence of microbiota have been overlooked in other epithelia. In the present study, we present the first description of the bacterial communities associated with the olfactory epithelium and explored differences in olfactory epithelium characteristics between germfree and conventional, specific pathogen-free, mice. While the anatomy of the olfactory epithelium was not significantly different, we observed a thinner olfactory cilia layer along with a decreased cellular turn-over in germfree mice. Using electro-olfactogram, we recorded the responses of olfactory sensitive neuronal populations to various odorant stimulations. We observed a global increase in the amplitude of responses to odorants in germfree mice as well as altered responses kinetics. These changes were associated with a decreased transcription of most olfactory transduction actors and of olfactory xenobiotic metabolising enzymes. Overall, we present here the first evidence that the microbiota modulates the physiology of olfactory epithelium. As olfaction is a major sensory modality for most animal species, the microbiota may have an important impact on animal physiology and behaviour through olfaction alteration.
PMCID: PMC4835764  PMID: 27089944
2.  Early survival factor deprivation in the olfactory epithelium enhances activity-driven survival 
The neuronal olfactory epithelium undergoes permanent renewal because of environmental aggression. This renewal is partly regulated by factors modulating the level of neuronal apoptosis. Among them, we had previously characterized endothelin as neuroprotective. In this study, we explored the effect of cell survival factor deprivation in the olfactory epithelium by intranasal delivery of endothelin receptors antagonists to rat pups. This treatment induced an overall increase of apoptosis in the olfactory epithelium. The responses to odorants recorded by electroolfactogram were decreased in treated animal, a result consistent with a loss of olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs). However, the treated animal performed better in an olfactory orientation test based on maternal odor compared to non-treated littermates. This improved performance could be due to activity-dependent neuronal survival of OSNs in the context of increased apoptosis level. In order to demonstrate it, we odorized pups with octanal, a known ligand for the rI7 olfactory receptor (Olr226). We quantified the number of OSN expressing rI7 by RT-qPCR and whole mount in situ hybridization. While this number was reduced by the survival factor removal treatment, this reduction was abolished by the presence of its ligand. This improved survival was optimal for low concentration of odorant and was specific for rI7-expressing OSNs. Meanwhile, the number of rI7-expressing OSNs was not affected by the odorization in non-treated littermates; showing that the activity-dependant survival of OSNs did not affect the OSN population during the 10 days of odorization in control conditions. Overall, our study shows that when apoptosis is promoted in the olfactory mucosa, the activity-dependent neuronal plasticity allows faster tuning of the olfactory sensory neuron population toward detection of environmental odorants.
PMCID: PMC3870945  PMID: 24399931
Olfaction; activity-dependent plasticity; EOG; U131; WISH
3.  Bestrophin-Encoded Ca2+-Activated Cl− Channels Underlie a Current with Properties Similar to the Native Current in the Moth Spodoptera littoralis Olfactory Receptor Neurons 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e52691.
Responses of insect olfactory receptor neurons (ORNs) involve an entry of Ca2+ through olfactory heterodimeric receptor complexes. In moths, the termination of ORN responses was found to strongly depend on the external Ca2+ concentration through the activation of unknown Ca2+-dependent Cl− channels. We thus investigated the molecular identity of these Cl− channels. There is compelling evidence that bestrophins form Cl− channels when expressed in heterologous systems. Here we provide evidence that antennae of the moth Spodoptera littoralis express three transcripts encoding proteins with hallmarks of bestrophins. One of these transcripts, SlitBest1b, is expressed in ORNs. The heterologous expression of SlitBest1b protein in CHO-K1 cells yielded a Ca2+-activated Cl− current that shares electrophysiological properties with the native Ca2+-activated Cl− current of ORNs. Both currents are anionic, present similar dependence on the intracellular Ca2+ concentration, partly inactivate over time, have the same anion permeability sequence, the same sequence of inhibitory efficiency of blockers, the same almost linear I–V relationships and finally both currents do not depend on the cell volume. Therefore, our data suggest that SlitBest1b is a good candidate for being a molecular component of the olfactory Ca2+-activated Cl− channel and is likely to constitute part of the insect olfactory transduction pathway. A different function (e.g. regulation of other proteins, maintenance of the anionic homeostasis in the sensillar lymph) and a different role (e.g. involvement in the olfactory system development) cannot be excluded however.
PMCID: PMC3530479  PMID: 23300744
4.  A carboxylesterase, Esterase-6, modulates sensory physiological and behavioral response dynamics to pheromone in Drosophila 
BMC Biology  2012;10:56.
Insects respond to the spatial and temporal dynamics of a pheromone plume, which implies not only a strong response to 'odor on', but also to 'odor off'. This requires mechanisms geared toward a fast signal termination. Several mechanisms may contribute to signal termination, among which odorant-degrading enzymes. These enzymes putatively play a role in signal dynamics by a rapid inactivation of odorants in the vicinity of the sensory receptors, although direct in vivo experimental evidences are lacking. Here we verified the role of an extracellular carboxylesterase, esterase-6 (Est-6), in the sensory physiological and behavioral dynamics of Drosophila melanogaster response to its pheromone, cis-vaccenyl acetate (cVA). Est-6 was previously linked to post-mating effects in the reproductive system of females. As Est-6 is also known to hydrolyze cVA in vitro and is expressed in the main olfactory organ, the antenna, we tested here its role in olfaction as a putative odorant-degrading enzyme.
We first confirm that Est-6 is highly expressed in olfactory sensilla, including cVA-sensitive sensilla, and we show that expression is likely associated with non-neuronal cells. Our electrophysiological approaches show that the dynamics of olfactory receptor neuron (ORN) responses is strongly influenced by Est-6, as in Est-6° null mutants (lacking the Est-6 gene) cVA-sensitive ORN showed increased firing rate and prolonged activity in response to cVA. Est-6° mutant males had a lower threshold of behavioral response to cVA, as revealed by the analysis of two cVA-induced behaviors. In particular, mutant males exhibited a strong decrease of male-male courtship, in association with a delay in courtship initiation.
Our study presents evidence that Est-6 plays a role in the physiological and behavioral dynamics of sex pheromone response in Drosophila males and supports a role of Est-6 as an odorant-degrading enzyme (ODE) in male antennae. Our results also expand the role of Est-6 in Drosophila biology, from reproduction to olfaction, and highlight the role of ODEs in insect olfaction.
PMCID: PMC3414785  PMID: 22715942
carboxylesterase; esterase 6; olfaction; pheromone; signal termination

Results 1-4 (4)