Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Finding the target: How timing is critical in establishing an olfactory wiring map

Date:
April 10, 2014
Source:
Stowers Institute for Medical Research
Summary:
A developmental window during which olfactory neurons of newborn mice can form a proper wiring map has been identified by researchers. They show that if incorrect neuronal connections are maintained after this period, renewing cells will also be mis-wired. The human nose expresses nearly 400 odorant receptors, which allow us to distinguish a large number of scents. In mice the number of odor receptors is closer to 1000. Each olfactory neuron displays only a single type of receptor and all neurons with the same receptors are connected to the same spot, a glomerulus, in the brain.

Native neurons (green) that express the odorant receptor MOR28 attach to known glomeruli (above). Neurons expressing engineered MOR28 (red) may attach to other glomeruli. Growing side-by-side, the red neurons could redirect some of the green, but only in the perinatal period. Neuron wiring established early remained stable in adults.
Credit: Barnea lab/Brown University

The human nose expresses nearly 400 odorant receptors, which allow us to distinguish a large number of scents. In mice the number of odor receptors is closer to 1000. Each olfactory neuron displays only a single type of receptor and all neurons with the same receptors are connected to the same spot, a glomerulus, in the brain. This convergence, or wiring pattern, is often described as an olfactory map. The map is important because it serves as a code book for odorants that allows the brain to distinguish between food odors and the scent of a predator, among others.

Unlike photoreceptors in the retina or hair cells in the inner ear, which cannot be replaced once damaged, olfactory neurons have the unique capacity to regenerate throughout the life. More remarkably, the regenerated neurons must dispatch their axons on a path through the nasal epithelium to the brain through a distance a thousand times the length of the cell, where they make the proper connections. If regenerating neurons are mis-wired to different glomeruli, odor perception would be altered.

In the April 11, 2014 issue of Science, Associate Investigator C. Ron Yu, Ph.D. and colleagues at the Stowers Institute of Medical Research identify a developmental window during which olfactory neurons of newborn mice can form a proper wiring map. They show that if incorrect neuronal connections are maintained after this period, renewing cells will also be mis-wired.

Their results also hint at how the olfactory neurons connect to their targets. Although scientists can induce stem cells to become neurons, they know little about how to precisely steer them to make the proper connections. This work suggests additional targeting skills that stem cell-generated neurons need to acquire to repair the brain or spinal cord.

Previously, researchers thought that since olfactory neurons exhibited lifelong regeneration, they likewise retained the ability to re-establish correct connections. “We show that this is not the case,” says Yu. In the report, his team uses a number of transgenic mouse lines to demonstrate that the first week after birth is a critical window of time during which incorrect projections can be restored to normal. “If mis-targeting does not get corrected within this period, cells still regenerate but many get locked onto the wrong tracks.” Yu adds.

Neuronal wiring has intrigued Yu since he was a post-doc in the lab of Richard Axel, M.D., at Columbia University. Back then Yu created a genetically engineered mouse in which he could temporarily muffle the firing of olfactory neurons. He found that inactivating neurons caused them to connect to the wrong glomeruli. After joining the Stowers Institute in 2005, Yu began to wonder whether an incorrectly wired olfactory map could be restored in mice.

In this new work, Yu’s team, led by first author Limei Ma, Ph.D., reports that if the silenced sensory neurons are reactivated within a week of a mouse’s birth, erroneous olfactory neuron connections are restored. Beyond that critical period, however, neurons appeared to lose the capacity to make the right connections and in fact maintained connections to the wrong glomeruli.

“After the first week, we believe that newly generated neurons follow pre-existing tracks to their target,” says Ma, Senior Research Specialist in the Yu lab. A key finding in the report supports this idea. The team provoked a temporary identity crisis in olfactory neurons by broadly mis-expressing an odorant receptor called M71 in cells where it would not normally be displayed. Surprisingly, only the neurons that normally express the M71 receptor targeted the “wrong” glomeruli, not the neurons that express different odorant receptors.

An interpretation of this experiment is that late-born olfactory neurons expressing a particular receptor recognize and follow a track laid down earlier by neurons expressing the very same receptor—even if the latter expressed that receptor due to experimental manipulation. “These olfactory neurons have identity tags,” says Ma, referring to the receptors. “And they like to follow others displaying the same tag.”

As yet, investigators have not identified the molecular basis for the targeting switch occurring at the end of one-week period. “We don’t know what keeps these late stage cells from re-establishing the right connections,” explains Ma. “Either the cues that guide them disappear or their axons encounter a physical barrier to the target.”

Yu envisions the studies in the olfactory system will provide clues on how a regenerated neuron, either through a natural process in the case of the olfactory neuron, or by stem technology, find their target and make the right connection. “To repair a damaged spinal cord, you will need to ensure that newly generated motor neurons target the right muscle,” says Yu. “The next goal is to identify the molecular cues that enable correct projections to be established.”


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Stowers Institute for Medical Research. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. L. Ma, Y. Wu, Q. Qiu, H. Scheerer, A. Moran, C. R. Yu. A Developmental Switch of Axon Targeting in the Continuously Regenerating Mouse Olfactory System. Science, 2014; 344 (6180): 194 DOI: 10.1126/science.1248805

Cite This Page:

Stowers Institute for Medical Research. "Finding the target: How timing is critical in establishing an olfactory wiring map." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 April 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140410141743.htm>.
Stowers Institute for Medical Research. (2014, April 10). Finding the target: How timing is critical in establishing an olfactory wiring map. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140410141743.htm
Stowers Institute for Medical Research. "Finding the target: How timing is critical in establishing an olfactory wiring map." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140410141743.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Beatings and Addiction: Pakistan Drug 'clinic' Tortures Patients

Beatings and Addiction: Pakistan Drug 'clinic' Tortures Patients

AFP (July 24, 2014) A so-called drugs rehab 'clinic' is closed down in Pakistan after police find scores of ‘patients’ chained up alleging serial abuse. Duration 03:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) The FDA approved Targiniq ER on Wednesday, a painkiller designed to keep users from abusing it. Like any new medication, however, it has doubters. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Can Watching TV Make You Feel Like A Failure?

Can Watching TV Make You Feel Like A Failure?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) A study by German researchers claims watching TV while you're stressed out can make you feel guilty and like a failure. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
China's Ageing Millions Look Forward to Bleak Future

China's Ageing Millions Look Forward to Bleak Future

AFP (July 24, 2014) China's elderly population is expanding so quickly that children struggle to look after them, pushing them to do something unexpected in Chinese society- move their parents into a nursing home. Duration: 02:07 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

      Environment News

        Technology News



          Save/Print:
          Share:

          Free Subscriptions


          Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

          Get Social & Mobile


          Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

          Have Feedback?


          Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
          Mobile: iPhone Android Web
          Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
          Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
          Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins