Odorant receptor expression defines functional units in the mouse olfactory system

Thomas Bozza, Paul Feinstein, Chen Zheng, Peter Mombaerts*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

317 Scopus citations


Odorant receptors (ORs) mediate the interaction of odorous compounds with olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs) and influence the guidance of OSN axons to synaptic targets in the olfactory bulb (OB). OSNs expressing the same OR send convergent axonal projections to defined glomeruli in the OB and are thought to share the same odorant response properties. This expectation of functional similarity has not been tested experimentally, because it has not been possible to determine reproducibly the response properties of OSNs that express defined ORs. Here, we applied calcium imaging to characterize the odorant response properties of single neurons from gene-targeted mice in which the green fluorescent protein is coexpressed with a particular OR. We show that the odorants acetophenone and benzaldehyde are agonists for the M71 OR and that M71-expressing neurons are functionally similar in their response properties across concentration. Replacing the M71 coding sequence with that of the rat 17 OR changes the stimulus response profiles of this genetically defined OSN population and concomitantly results in the formation of novel glomeruli in the OB. We further show that the mouse 17 OR imparts a particular response profile to OSNs regardless of the epithelial zone of expression. Our data provide evidence that ORs determine both odorant specificity and axonal convergence and thus direct functionally similar afferents to form particular glomeruli. They confirm and extend the notion that OR expression provides a molecular basis for the formation and arrangement of glomerular functional units.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3033-3043
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 15 2002


  • Calcium imaging
  • Glomerulus
  • Green fluorescent protein
  • Odorant receptor
  • Olfaction
  • Olfactory bulb
  • Olfactory receptor
  • Olfactory system
  • Sensory neuron

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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