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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Long-term survival of olfactory sensory neurons after target depletion.

  • Author(s): Sultan-Styne, Krista
  • Toledo, Rafael
  • Walker, Christine
  • Kallkopf, Anna
  • Ribak, Charles E
  • Guthrie, Kathleen M
  • et al.

Published Web Location Commons 'BY' version 4.0 license

Life-long addition and elimination of neurons within the adult olfactory epithelium and olfactory bulb allows for adaptive structural responses to sensory experience, learning, and recovery after injury. The interdependence of the two structures is highlighted by the shortened life span of sensory neurons deprived of bulb contact, and has prompted the hypothesis that trophic cues from the bulb contribute to their survival. The specific identity and source of these signals remain unknown. To investigate the potential role of target neurons in this support, we employed a neurotoxic lesion to selectively remove them while preserving the remaining nerve projection pathway, and examined the dynamics of sensory neuron proliferation and survival. Pulse-labeling of progenitors with bromodeoxyuridine showed that, as with surgical bulb removal, increased apoptosis in the epithelium triggered accelerated production of new neurons after chemical depletion of target cells. Rather than undergoing premature death, a large subpopulation of these neurons survived long term. The combination of increased proliferation and extended survival resulted in essentially normal numbers of new sensory neurons surviving for as long as 5 weeks, with an accompanying restoration of olfactory marker protein expression. Changes in neurotrophic factor expression levels as measured by quantitative polymerase chain reaction (Q-PCR), and in bulb cell populations, including the addition of new neurons generated in the subventricular zone, were observed in the injured bulb. These data indicate that olfactory sensory neurons can adapt to reductions in their normal target field by obtaining sufficient support from remaining or alternative cell sources to survive and maintain their projections.

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