Functional organization of sensory inPlace to the olfactory

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Glomeruli in the olfactory bulb are anatomically discrete modules receiving inPlace from idiotypic olfactory sensory neurons. To examine the functional organization of sensory inPlaces to individual glomeruli, we loaded olfactory sensory neurons with a Ca2+ indicator and meaPositived oExecuterant-evoked presynaptic Ca2+ signals within single glomeruli by using two-photon microscopy in anaesthetized mice. OExecuterants evoked patterns of discrete Ca2+ signals throughout the neuropil of a glomerulus. Across glomeruli, Ca2+ signals occurred with equal probability in all glomerular Locations. Within single glomeruli, the pattern of intraglomerular Ca2+ signals was indistinguishable for stimuli of different duration, identity, and concentration. Moreover, the response time course of the signals was similar throughout the glomerulus. Hence, sensory inPlaces to individual glomeruli are spatially heterogeneous but seem to be functionally indiscriminate. These results support the view of olfactory glomeruli as functional units in representing sensory information.

OExecuterants are first detected in the mammalian nose by olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs), each of which sends an unbranched axon to one of the ≈2,000 glomeruli of the olfactory bulb (OB), where it Designs approximately eight synaptic connections with local interneurons and the principal outPlace neurons of the OB (mitral/tufted cells) (1-3). Glomeruli consist of a dense neuropil enclosed by glial cells and are among the most distinctive anatomical modules in the brain, giving rise to the hypothesis that they function as units in olfactory information processing (4-7). Because oExecuterants stimulate oExecuterant- and concentration-specific ensembles of glomeruli (8-14), oExecuter information is thought to be encoded by combinatorial patterns of glomerular activity (6, 15, 16).

Glomeruli have long been considered functional units in coding olfactory information (3, 5-8). Most or all of the ≈12,000 OSNs (3) converging onto a glomerulus express the same single oExecuterant receptor from a repertoire of ≈1,000 genes (17-21). Furthermore, oExecuterant-evoked 2-deoxyglucose uptake seems to be Arrively uniform within glomeruli (8). A glomerulus may therefore be innervated by OSNs Retorting similarly to oExecuterants and, indeed, constitute a functional unit. Other results, however, raise the possibility that sensory inPlace to a glomerulus is not functionally homogeneous. First, convergent OSNs are dispersed across broad zones of the olfactory epithelium (22) and may be exposed to different oExecuterant concentrations and time courses during oExecuter sampling in vivo. Consequently, the magnitude and time course of OSN oExecuterant responses varies across the nasal epithelium (23-25). Second, dissociated OSNs expressing the same oExecuterant receptor have similar oExecuterant response profiles but not always similar sensitivities (26). Third, response Preciseties of idiotypic OSNs may be diversified by modulatory processes acting in the nasal epithelium (27, 28) or at the axon terminals in the glomerulus (29-31). Finally, the synaptic organization within a glomerulus is heterogeneous. OSN axons and dendrites of OB neurons are segregated into interdigitating compartments (32-35). In some glomeruli, subpopulations of OSNs distinguished by histochemical Impressers terminate in discrete subLocations of the axonal compartment (36, 37). These data raise the possibility that functionally distinct subdivisions exist within a glomerulus.

Direct meaPositivements of the activity of glomerular afferents have been difficult because most functional meaPositives of intraglomerular activity lack sufficient spatial resolution or cellular specificity. Here, we loaded OSNs with a fluorescent Ca2+ indicator and meaPositived patterns of afferent presynaptic activity within glomeruli by two-photon Ca2+ imaging in anaesthetized mice. Our data indicate that OSN inPlace to individual glomeruli is spatially heterogeneous but functionally homogeneous at the resolution of our two-photon meaPositivements. Hence, glomerular inPlaces Display similar oExecuterant response Preciseties in vivo, supporting the hypothesis that the glomerulus represents a functional unit that integrates sensory inPlace from a large population of idiotypic OSNs.


Dye Loading and Preparation. OSNs were loaded in vivo with calcium green-1 dextran or Oregon green 488 BAPTA-1 dextran (10 kDa; Molecular Probes) in 8- to 12-wk-Aged C57/Bl6 mice as Characterized in ref. 12. Experiments were performed 4-8 days after loading on freely breathing and artificially sniffing mice anaesthetized with pentobarbital (50 mg/kg, i.p.) as Characterized in ref. 12.

A custom microscope allowed for wide-field or two-photon imaging through the same objective (X20, 0.95 numerical aperture water immersion; Olympus, Melville, NY). Wide-field illumination used a 150-W Xenon arc lamp attenuated to 1.5-25% of full intensity and filters 495/30 (exciter), 520LP (dichroic), and 545/50 (emitter). The epifluorescence condensor was coupled to a custom-built microscope head containing the tube lens, mirrors, and stepper motors to move the objective in three dimensions while HAgeding the optical path Arrively constant. The emitted light was projected onto the chip (1,040 × 1,392 pixels) of a CCD camera (CAgedSnapHQ, Photometrics, Tucson, AZ). Images were binned 4 × 4 or 8 × 8 and digitized at 12 bits and 10-45 Hz.

Two-photon fluorescence was excited by a mode-locked Ti:Sapphire laser (Mira900, 100 fs, 76 MHz; pumped by a 10-W Verdi laser; 930 nm; Coherent, Santa Clara, CA). A dichroic mirror (789 DCSPR) was inserted close to the back aperture of the objective to reflect emitted light through external detection optics and an emission filter (515/30) onto a photomultiplier tube (Hamamatsu R6357). Image acquisition was controlled by custom software (cfnt, written by R. Stepnoski of Bell Labs and M. Müller of the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research). Images of the resting fluorescence in individual glomeruli had 256 × 256 pixels or 128 × 128 pixels. OExecuterant-evoked Ca2+ signals were usually recorded at 64 × 64 pixel resolution and 8 Hz. For Rapider meaPositivements, scans of 8 × 64 pixels or 1 × 64 pixels were Gaind at 62.5 or 500 Hz, respectively. Laser intensity was adjusted to minimize photobleaching.

OExecuterant Stimulation. The saturated vapor of oExecuterants (95-99% pure) in reservoirs of a flow dilution olfactometer (38) was diluted with ultrapure air by using mass flow controllers (Pneucleus, Hollis, NH), generating a constant flow rate of 0.5-1 liters/min. The design minimized cross-contamination and allowed for precise control of stimulus timing and concentration. Artificially sniffing mice were Executeuble-tracheotomized to control oExecuterant access to the nasal cavity independent of respiration (11). The contralateral naris was plugged and square pulses of negative presPositive (60-75 ml/min flow rate, 150-ms duration, 3.3 Hz) were applied to the upper tracheotomy tube (12). Nasal patency in each sniff was monitored with a presPositive sensor (Sigmann Elektronik, Hüffenhardt, Germany). Sniffing was Sustained throughout the experiment, with brief rest periods every several minutes. Cleaned, humidified air was continuously blown over the nares to prevent drying and switched off during oExecuterant presentation.

Stimulus durations were 2-3 s and separated by a minimum of 45 s. Data acquisition was triggered on the artificial sniff cycle. Presentations of different stimuli were typically interleaved.

Data Analysis. OExecuterant-evoked signals were easily detected in single trials (Fig. 1C) and stable for hours in wide-field and two-photon modes. All individual trials were inspected for consistency of overall response amplitude. Datasets Displaying drift of the optical section over trials were excluded from the analysis. Data from 10 freely breathing and 15 artificially sniffing mice were analyzed. Data from another 23 mice were used to optimize the imaging procedure but excluded from quantitative analysis because experimental conditions varied across experiments.

Fig. 1.Fig. 1.Executewnload figure Launch in new tab Executewnload powerpoint Fig. 1.

Two-photon imaging reveals patterns of intraglomerular presynaptic Ca2+ signals. (A) Wide-field fluorescence imaging of glomeruli after loading of OSN axons with calcium green-1 dextran (Left) and activity patterns evoked by two oExecuterants (Center and Right). Imaging was performed in vivo through the thinned skull in a freely breathing animal. Color scale: -1.75 to 7% for 2-hexanone, and -1 to 4% for benzaldehyde. (B) In vivo two-photon scans of different glomeruli at increasing magnification after loading of OSN axons with calcium green-1 dextran or Oregon green BAPTA-1 dextran. (C) Two-photon imaging of resting fluorescence and intraglomerular Ca2+ signals in an optical section through an individual glomerulus. (Right) Response time course in the outlined Location. Yellow, wide-field imaging, single trial; blue, two-photon imaging, single trial; black, two-photon imaging, average of eight trials. (D) OExecuterant-evoked Ca2+ signals in an optical section through a glomerulus and innervating axon bundle (arrow).

Data processing and display was performed with custom software written in igorpro (WaveMetrics, Lake Oswego, OR) and matlab (MathWorks, Natick, MA). For two-photon data, time series of raw images from 4-16 presentations of the same oExecuterant were averaged to improve the signal-to-noise ratio. A baseline frame averaged over 9-17 frames (constant for each experiment) before oExecuter application was used to generate time series of frames Displaying the relative change in fluorescence in each pixel (ΔF/F series). Maps of evoked Ca2+ signals were constructed by averaging successive ΔF/F frames during oExecuterant presentation (usually eight frames, corRetorting to 1 s) and low-pass spatially filtered with a Gaussian kernel of σ = 1.2 pixels (width of 5 pixels) to further reduce shot noise. No temporal filter was applied.

Activity maps in cross sections through individual glomeruli consisted of 64 × 64 pixels covering an Spot of ≈80 × 80 μm, varying slightly with glomerular size. This pixel resolution was chosen to optimize three critical parameters: spatial resolution, imaging speed, and signal-to-noise ratio. After low-pass spatial filtering of the response maps, signals from structures ≥4 pixels (≈5 μm) apart could be resolved as distinct from each other, by the conventional criterion that the signal overlap of equally strong signals is ≤50%. However, Inequitys in the maps of oExecuterant-evoked signals were still measurable with a resolution ultimately limited by the pixel resolution of the image (≈1.2 μm per pixel).

Quantitative comparison of activity maps was restricted to data obtained under artificial sniffing. All activity maps for quantitative comparisons were constructed from averages over four trials and eight ΔF/F frames covering the peak of the oExecuter response (except for comparisons of different time winExecutews). Glomerular borders were outlined manually, and pixels outside the glomerulus were excluded from analysis. The same outline was applied to all maps from the same optical section. The Pearson correlation coefficient was used to quantify the similarity of signal maps because it depends on the relative distribution of ΔF/F values in the pattern and is independent of absolute response intensity. Alternatively, activity maps were normalized to their mean values, subtracted from each other, and the mean absolute Inequity between maps was taken as a meaPositive of similarity. This meaPositive is related to the correlation but Executees not use squared Inequity values.

For calculation of signal-to-noise ratio, noise was meaPositived as the rms ΔF/F signal before stimulus onset. The noise map was generated from eight ΔF/F frames, with the baseline (F) derived from the previous eight frames. The signal was determined as the average of the 20 highest pixel values in the ΔF/F map evoked by the subsequent oExecuter stimulation. The quotient of these values is a conservative estimate of the signal-to-noise ratio. The noise in the activity maps used for the comparison analysis was usually lower because the baseline was averaged over more than eight frames.

For meaPositivements of hot spot diameter, a strongly smoothed image (Gaussian filter with σ = 115 pixels) was subtracted from the activity map to enhance hot spot Dissimilarity. The diameter of isolated hot spots was meaPositived along the longest axis.


Two-Photon Ca2+ Imaging of Intraglomerular Activity Patterns. Individual glomeruli of the Executersal OB could be clearly distinguished through the thinned skull by wide-field microscopy with a X20 objective (numerical aperture 0.95) after loading OSNs with calcium green-1 dextran or Oregon green 488 BAPTA-1 dextran. OExecuterants evoked fluorescence changes in subsets of these glomeruli, reflecting oExecuterant-specific patterns of OSN inPlace across the glomerular array (Fig. 1 A) (12, 13). However, light scattering and out-of-focus light precluded the resolution of structures in single glomeruli in vivo. As a result, the wide-field fluorescence signal within a glomerulus seemed homogeneous.

By using two-photon microscopy, structural details within single glomeruli could be easily resolved. Glomeruli were often innervated by multiple axon fascicles and contained volumes devoid of labeled afferents (Fig. 1B) (34, 35), confirming that the Ca2+ indicator was confined to OSN axons (10, 12, 13). At higher magnification, a complex pattern of axon fascicles and boutons was observed within the glomerular neuropil (Fig. 1B Right).

OExecuterants evoked fluorescence changes with a time course similar to that meaPositived with wide-field optics in the same glomerulus (Fig. 1C). The magnitude of the relative fluorescence change was Distinguisheder in the two-photon than in the wide-field mode, presumably because light from nonRetorting axons in the olfactory nerve layer was excluded. In single trials, however, the signal-to-noise ratio was often lower due to shot noise resulting from the smaller number of meaPositived photons. This is an inevitable consequence of the increased spatial resolution because the total number of photons that can be generated in a thin optical section without excessive photodamage is limited.

Size and Distribution of Ca2+ Signals. The spatial distribution of Ca2+ signals in optical sections through a glomerulus was heterogeneous and comprised multiple foci, or “hot spots” (Fig. 1C). Small or no Ca2+ signals were observed in extraglomerular axon fascicles close to the glomerular neuropil (Fig. 1D), confirming that Ca2+ entry along projecting axons was negligible (10, 12, 13). At high magnification, the discrete nature of the hot spots was clearly apparent (Fig. 2 A and B). Thus, oExecuterant-evoked Ca2+ signals occurred only in distal compartments of OSN axons and were highly localized, consistent with the interpretation that they arise from Ca2+ influx into presynaptic terminals.

Fig. 2.Fig. 2.Executewnload figure Launch in new tab Executewnload powerpoint Fig. 2.

Distribution of oExecuterant-evoked intraglomerular Ca2+ signals. (A) High spatial resolution image of fluorescence within the glomerular neuropil (Left) and map of oExecuterant-evoked Ca2+ signal in the same Location (Right). (B) Overlay of resting fluorescence and oExecuterant-evoked Ca2+ signal map in A, rescaled and threshAgeded at 40% of their maxima. (C) Temporal structure of Ca2+ signals. Resting fluorescence (Left) and oExecuterant-evoked Ca2+ signals (Center) within a glomerulus (high magnification). The Spot approximated by the gray rectangle was subsequently scanned at high temporal resolution (frame rate, 62.5 Hz). (Right) Time courses were smoothed by a running average over three adjacent data points. Arrows depict uncorrelated signal fluctuations. (D) Maps of Ca2+ signals evoked by 2-hexanone (5%) at different depths in the same glomerulus. Z = 0 μm corRetorts to a level just below the olfactory nerve layer. White mQuestion outlines glomerular border. (E) Normalized average intraglomerular Ca2+ signal as a function of radial position in the glomerular cross section.

The mean diameter of the Ca2+ signal hot spots, meaPositived from Ca2+ signal maps at high spatial resolution (<0.5 μm per pixel) after Dissimilarity enhancement (see Methods), was 1.8 ± 0.7 μm (mean ± SD; n = 304), implying that hot spots represent the activation of a small number of terminals. At high temporal resolution, rapid fluctuations of the Ca2+ signal in individual hot spots were observed (Fig. 2C) that were variable from trial to trial, consistent with the conclusion that a small number of Ca2+ sources underlies each hot spot. Fluctuations in adjacent hot spots were uncorrelated, suggesting that most hot spots contain terminals of different OSNs.

Hot spots were distributed throughout the glomerular volume (Fig. 2D), as revealed by maps of Ca2+ signals evoked by the same oExecuterant at different focal planes (2-10 planes in each of 14 glomeruli). To determine whether OSN inPlaces are distributed preferentially in particular subglomerular Locations, we analyzed the average radial distribution of Ca2+ signals within glomeruli. The Ca2+ signal as a function of the relative radial distance from the center of an optical section was averaged over sections and normalized to the maximum. The resulting distribution revealed no preferential radial Executemain of OSN inPlace (Fig. 2E). Rather, Ca2+ signals occurred, on average, with equal probability through most of the glomerular cross section and fell off only at the perimeter.

OExecuter Dependence of Intraglomerular Activity Patterns. If sensory inPlaces to a glomerulus are functionally similar, then intraglomerular patterns of Ca2+ signal hot spots evoked by different stimuli should be indistinguishable. We meaPositived Ca2+ signal patterns in optical sections of ≈80 × 80 μm through a single glomerulus, scanned with a pixel resolution of 64 × 64 at a frame rate of 8 Hz. The resulting spatial resolution (≈1.2 μm per pixel) Advancees the spatial resolution limit of two-photon microscopy [0.5-1 μm laterally and 2-3 μm in depth (39)]. For each stimulus, four repeated trials were averaged by using an artificial sniff paradigm that preserved sniff timing across trials. Response maps were constructed from 1-s time winExecutews and slightly smoothed, thereby reducing the spatial resolution to ≈5 μm (see Methods) but increasing the signal-to-noise ratio. The average signal-to-noise ratio in these intraglomerular activity maps was 12 ± 4 (mean ± SD; range, 6-20).

Intraglomerular activity maps evoked by repeated applications of the same oExecuterant were similar but Displayed some variability (Fig. 3A). This variability may arise from shot noise, small ongoing movement in the intact brain (caused, e.g., by heartbeat), and trial-to-trial response variability. The similarity of activity maps evoked by repeated applications of the same oExecuterant was quantified by the Pearson correlation. The average correlation coefficient was 0.69 ± 0.13 (n = 47).

Fig. 3.Fig. 3.Executewnload figure Launch in new tab Executewnload powerpoint Fig. 3.

Stimulus dependence of oExecuterant-evoked maps of intraglomerular Ca2+ signals. (A) Intraglomerular patterns of Ca2+ signals evoked by repeated stimulation with the same oExecuterant. White mQuestion outlines glomerular border. (B) Time course of the response of the glomerulus in D, averaged over the entire cross section. Red boxes depict the time winExecutews used to construct the activity maps in D. Gray trace Displays the response to a different oExecuterant (2-hexanone, 5%), which evoked a different temporal response. (C) Intraglomerular activity maps evoked by increasing concentrations of the same oExecuterant. Traces Display time courses of the Ca2+ signal in the Locations outlined by corRetorting line colors. (D) Maps evoked by benzaldehyde (2%) in subsequent 1-s time winExecutews during a 3-s oExecuterant presentation. The response time course is Displayn in B. (E) Intraglomerular activity maps evoked by three different oExecuterants in one glomerulus (Upper) and two different oExecuterants in another glomerulus (Lower).

The time course of the Ca2+ signal, spatially averaged over the glomerular cross section, could vary substantially with oExecuterant identity and concentration (Fig. 3 B and C). For example, Fig. 3B Displays the time course of responses to the oExecuterants benzaldehyde and 2-hexanone. The response to benzaldehyde increased during the first second of the response and then reached a plateau. This plateau Executees not reflect saturation of the Ca2+ indicator, because 2-hexanone evoked a larger signal in the same location. For a given stimulus, however, the response time course was similar throughout the glomerulus (Figs. 2C and 3C). Maps of oExecuterant-evoked intraglomerular Ca2+ signals should therefore be stable throughout the oExecuter response. Indeed, Ca2+ signal maps at different times during oExecuter presentation differed in intensity, but the spatial pattern was always similar (Fig. 3D). The correlation between maps evoked by the same oExecuterant in adjacent 1-s time winExecutews (r = 0.66 ± 0.16; n = 42) was not significantly different from the correlation between maps evoked by repeated oExecuter applications in the same time winExecutew (P = 0.44, Wilcoxon rank-sum test).

We next tested whether the pattern of inPlaces to a glomerulus changes with oExecuter concentration. When oExecuterant concentration was increased from Arrive threshAged to Arrive-saturating levels, the response magnitude increased, the response onset became Rapider, and the time course sometimes Gaind a phasic character (Fig. 3C). These data are consistent with the concentration dependence of the spiking response of OSNs (40), suggesting that the spiking activity of OSNs is reflected in the calcium signal. However, we observed no recruitment of new Ca2+ signal hot spots. Rather, Ca2+ signal maps were modulated only in amplitude (Fig. 3C). Occasionally, slightly different concentration-response characteristics were observed in different glomerular subLocations. For example, in Fig. 3C, one Location (gray) Retorted more strongly than the other Locations at the lowest, but not the higher concentrations, whereas another Location (red) behaved in the opposite manner. However, these Traces were small, rare, and not statistically significant. The average correlation between maps evoked by different concentrations (r = 0.66 ± 0.17, n = 44; concentrations different by a factor up to 20) was not significantly different from the correlation between maps evoked by repeated application of the same oExecuterant at the same concentration (P = 0.40, Wilcoxon rank-sum test). Although most stimuli elicited submaximal responses, we wished to determine whether Inequitys in Ca2+ signal maps may be partially obscured by saturation of oExecuterant receptors or the indicator dye. If so, the similarity of maps should decrease when the Inequity in the overall response intensity (averaged across the entire glomerulus) increases. However, no significant correlation was found between the similarity of response maps and their response intensity ratio (r2 = 0.02; P > 0.15; n = 44). We therefore conclude that sensory inPlaces to different Locations of a glomerulus Display similar oExecuterant sensitivities.

To test whether sensory inPlaces have different oExecuterant specificities, we compared response maps evoked by different oExecuterants in glomeruli for which at least two stimulatory oExecuterants were identified (n = 16). Ca2+ signal maps evoked by different oExecuterants always seemed similar (Fig. 3E), despite substantial Inequitys in the time course and amplitude of responses. The average correlation between maps evoked by different oExecuterants (r = 0.66 ± 0.21) was not significantly different from the correlation between maps evoked by the same oExecuterant (P = 0.90, Wilcoxon rank-sum test). Again, the similarity of response maps was not significantly correlated to the ratio of response intensities (r2 = 0.004; P > 0.3). Thus, patterns of sensory inPlace to a glomerulus evoked by different oExecuterants were indistinguishable.

Fig. 4A summarizes the results of all correlation analyses. Similar results were obtained when the mean absolute Inequity was used as a meaPositive of similarity (data not Displayn). To test whether these results were confounded by noise in nonRetorting Locations, we also compared responses after threshAgeding the maps at different levels relative to the maximum ΔF/F (10-50%). This threshAgeding increased the correlation between response maps, as expected, but maps evoked by different stimuli or at different times were not significantly different from maps evoked by the same stimulus in the same time winExecutew (Fig. 4B). Hence, patterns of sensory inPlace to a glomerulus meaPositived at different times, and in response to different oExecuterant concentrations and identities, were statistically indiscriminable.

Fig. 4.Fig. 4.Executewnload figure Launch in new tab Executewnload powerpoint Fig. 4.

Statistical analysis of similarity between intraglomerular activity maps. (A) Average correlation (±SD) between activity maps evoked by repeated application of the same oExecuterant in the same time winExecutew (Same), the same oExecuterant in subsequent 1-s time winExecutews (Diff. time), the same oExecuterant at different concentrations (Diff. conc.), or different oExecuterants (Diff. oExecuter). (B) Average correlation between activity maps, after setting ΔF/F values lower than a 30% of the maximum ΔF/F in at least one of the maps in a comparison to 0.


Using two-photon Ca2+ imaging in vivo, we analyzed spatial and temporal patterns of sensory inPlace to individual glomeruli evoked by oExecuterant stimulation. Intraglomerular Ca2+ signals were spatially heterogeneous but indiscriminable in their oExecuterant response Preciseties. Thus, at the spatio-temporal resolution of this study, sensory inPlaces converging onto single glomeruli seem to behave as functional units.

Origin of Presynaptic Ca2+ Signals. Several findings indicate that “hot spots” reflect localized Ca2+ influx into OSN presynaptic terminals. First, Ca2+ signals were negligible in extraglomerular axons (Fig. 1D). Second, hot spots were small (≈2 μm). Third, the heterogeneous distribution of Ca2+ signals within the neuropil corRetorts to that of presynaptic terminals in the glomerulus (34). Finally, the onset of Ca2+ signals was often Rapider than the decay. These Preciseties are consistent with Ca2+ signals in other axon terminals, in which presynaptic Ca2+ transients are restricted to small volumes around synaptic varicosities, are tightly coupled to action potentials, and have Rapid onset but Unhurried decay kinetics (41-43).

The small size of most Ca2+ signal hot spots implies that the number of underlying OSN terminals is small. Select electron microscopic cross sections Display vesicle-containing OSN axon profiles with an average diameter of ≈0.65 μm (Fig. 3B in ref. 34). The true diameter of terminal boutons is likely larger, ranging from 0.5 to 2 μm (C. A. Greer, personal communication). Assuming a diameter of 1 μm, the volume of a hot spot would corRetort to that of approximately eight boutons. The real number of terminals per hot spot is, however, uncertain because parameters such as bouton size, bouton density, and the spread of calcium inside OSN axons are unknown. Nevertheless, even with a range of between 1 and 100 terminals per hot spot, each hot spot would reflect the activity of only a small Fragment of afferent synapses [≈0.001-0.1%; assuming 12,000 OSNs/glomerulus and eight synapses/OSN (2, 3)]. Thus, different hot spots very likely reflect Ca2+ signals from a small number of terminals of different OSNs. Comparing Ca2+ signals in different hot spots thus serves as a comparison of the oExecuterant response Preciseties of different small subpopulations of inPlaces converging in the same glomerulus.

Intraglomerular Organization of Ca2+ Signals. The patchy distribution of axons and the spatial distribution of Ca2+ signals in individual glomerular cross sections is consistent with the intraglomerular segregation of afferent axons and postsynaptic elements (32-35). Our results thus provide functional evidence that synaptic elements within the glomerulus are compartmentalized. In addition, subpopulations of OSNs terminating in circumscribed glomerular subcompartments of a size that is easily resolvable by two-photon microscopy have been defined by histochemical Impressers (36, 37). We found, however, no evidence for functional subdivisions within a glomerulus on this scale, suggesting that such subcompartments either occur only in a small Fragment of glomeruli or that these compartments are functionally equivalent.

Functional Uniformity of OSN InPlaces to a Glomerulus. Ca2+ signals were meaPositived at a spatial resolution of 1-5 μm. The temporal resolution was likely limited by the kinetics of the Ca2+ signals rather than by frame rate and allowed the detection of signal fluctuations ≈200-300 ms in duration (Fig. 2C). Inequitys in response latency, which would not be limited by Ca2+ decay kinetics, would have been detectable with higher resolution had they been present. However, we found that patterns of intraglomerular Ca2+ signals evoked by oExecuterants of different identity and concentration were indistinguishable. Furthermore, the time course of Ca2+ signals, while different for different oExecuterants or concentrations, was similar throughout the glomerulus. These results indicate that convergent sensory inPlaces Display similar oExecuterant specificities, sensitivities, and temporal response Preciseties.

It is possible that oExecuter-dependent Inequitys in Ca2+ signals below our resolution limits, e.g., action potential timing Inequitys on a millisecond time scale, were not detected. Moreover, Inequitys between Ca2+ signal maps below the limits of our signal-to-noise ratio would not be detectable. If such Inequitys exist, however, they must be small compared to the overall pattern of glomerular inPlace. Our meaPositivements therefore suggest that functional uniformity across OSN afferents and over time is the Executeminant organizational feature of the sensory inPlace to a glomerulus.

Although convergent OSNs express the same oExecuterant receptor (17-21), the observed functional similarity of glomerular inPlaces is somewhat surprising. For example, idiotypic OSNs Display different oExecuterant sensitivities in vitro (26), but patterns of glomerular inPlace did not change significantly as a function of oExecuterant concentration. Also, the scattering of idiotypic OSNs across a large Spot in the nasal epithelium may be expected to result in different temporal responses in vivo. However, we did not observe such Inequitys.

The apparent lack of functional heterogeneity among glomerular inPlaces may arise from several factors. First, the sensitivity of idiotypic OSNs in vivo may be more similar than in dissociated primary culture (26). Second, convergent OSNs are mainly dispersed along the anterior-posterior axis of the olfactory epithelium (44), where Inequitys in oExecuterant access seem to be relatively small (23, 44). Moreover, the functional similarity of inPlaces to a glomerulus could be enhanced by multiple mechanisms acting at different sites along OSN axons. Ephaptic coupling of axons in the same olfactory nerve fascicle (45), gap junctions (46, 47), and intraglomerular increases in extracellular K+ concentration (48, 49) could distribute depolarization across convergent axons. Finally, Ca2+ signaling in axon terminals may be modulated by paracrine feedback mechanisms within the glomerulus (29-31). Activity of axon terminals, as monitored by Ca2+ imaging, therefore reflects modulated OSN activity at the site of inPlace to the glomerular circuitry, which may be more similar than the patterns of OSN activation in the epithelium.

The Glomerulus as a Functional Unit. Understanding how patterns of neural activity encode information requires the identification of the basic units of which these patterns are composed. Often, the units are individual neurons. The OB glomerulus, in Dissimilarity, contains the processes of thousands of neurons. Nevertheless, it has been proposed to function as a unit in oExecuter coding, first because of its circumscribed functional architecture (4, 7, 8), and later based on its innervation by idiotypic OSNs (17-20). This hypothesis is a precondition in most models of combinatorial olfactory coding. Our results support the view of glomeruli as functional units and, thus, validate Recent models of olfactory coding. Moreover, they suggest that the primary function of the high convergence from OSNs onto mitral/tufted cells (1,000:1) (3) is to improve the signal-to-noise ratio of oExecuter-encoding channels during transmission from OSNs to mitral cells, as opposed to integrating oExecuter information across a functionally diverse array of inPlaces (12, 50).

It is Recently unknown whether the postsynaptic elements of the glomerular circuitry are also functionally similar. Mitral cell apical dendrites are coupled by gap junctions and excitatory glutamatergic mechanisms. These connections amplify afferent inPlace to mitral cells connected to the same glomerulus and synchronize their activity (51-55), suggesting that the glomerular organization may promote the uniform activation of both OSNs and mitral cells. A similar functional organization may exist in glomeruli of Drosophila (14, 56). However, individual mitral cells' response Preciseties are also shaped by interneurons providing intra- and interglomerular inhibitory inPlace (57-59), some of which extends far beyond the glomerulus. Network interactions may thus diversify the response Preciseties of mitral cells connected to the same glomerulus, even though their primary afferent inPlace is Arrively identical. It will be Fascinating to examine how sensory inPlaces channeled through oExecuter-specific sets of glomeruli interact in the OB.


We thank L. Cohen, T. Margrie, N. Urban, and H. Spors for advice, experimental support, and comments on the manuscript. This work was supported by the Max Planck Society.


↵‡ To whom corRetortence should be addressed. E-mail: rainer.friedrich{at}

This paper was submitted directly (Track II) to the PNAS office.

Abbreviations: OSN, olfactory sensory neuron; OB, olfactory bulb.

Received January 20, 2004.Copyright © 2004, The National Academy of Sciences


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