Glomeruli are the functional units of olfactory information processing but little remains known about their individual unit function. This is due to their widespread activation by odor stimuli. We expressed channelrhodopsin-2 in a single olfactory sensory neuron type, and used laser stimulation and simultaneous in vivo calcium imaging to study the responses of a single glomerulus to optogenetic stimulation. Calcium signals in the neuropil of this glomerulus were representative of the sensory input and nearly identical if evoked by intensity-matched odor and laser stimuli. However, significantly fewer glomerular layer interneurons and olfactory bulb output neurons (mitral cells) responded to optogenetic versus odor stimuli, resulting in a small and spatially compact optogenetic glomerular unit response. Temporal features of laser stimuli were represented with high fidelity in the neuropil of the glomerulus and the mitral cells, but not in interneurons. Increases in laser stimulus intensity were encoded by larger signal amplitudes in all compartments of the glomerulus, and by the recruitment of additional interneurons and mitral cells. No spatial expansion of the glomerular unit response was observed in response to stronger input stimuli. Our data are among the first descriptions of input-output transformations in a selectively activated olfactory glomerulus.
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