Distinct temporal filters in mitral cells and external tufted cells of the olfactory bulb

Christopher E. Vaaga, Gary L. Westbrook

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Key points: The release probability of the odorant receptor neuron (ORN) is reportedly one of the highest in the brain and is predicted to impose a transient temporal filter on postsynaptic cells. Mitral cells responded to high frequency ORN stimulation with sustained transmission, whereas external tufted cells responded transiently. The release probability of ORNs (0.7) was equivalent across mitral and external tufted cells and could be explained by a single pool of slowly recycling vesicles. The sustained response in mitral cells resulted from dendrodendritic amplification in mitral cells, which was blocked by NMDA and mGluR1 receptor antagonists, converting mitral cell responses to transient response profiles. Our results suggest that although the afferent ORN synapse shows strong synaptic depression, dendrodendritic circuitry in mitral cells produces robust amplification of brief afferent input, and thus the relative strength of axodendritic and dendrodendritic input determines the postsynaptic response profile. Abstract: Short-term synaptic plasticity is a critical regulator of neural circuits, and largely determines how information is temporally processed. In the olfactory bulb, afferent olfactory receptor neurons respond to increasing concentrations of odorants with barrages of action potentials, and their terminals have an extraordinarily high release probability. These features suggest that during naturalistic stimuli, afferent input to the olfactory bulb is subject to strong synaptic depression, presumably truncating the postsynaptic response to afferent stimuli. To examine this issue, we used single glomerular stimulation in mouse olfactory bulb slices to measure the synaptic dynamics of afferent-evoked input at physiological stimulus frequencies. In cell-attached recordings, mitral cells responded to high frequency stimulation with sustained responses, whereas external tufted cells responded transiently. Consistent with previous reports, olfactory nerve terminals onto both cell types had a high release probability (0.7), from a single pool of slowly recycling vesicles, indicating that the distinct responses of mitral and external tufted cells to high frequency stimulation did not originate presyaptically. Rather, distinct temporal response profiles in mitral cells and external tufted cells could be attributed to slow dendrodendritic responses in mitral cells, as blocking this slow current in mitral cells converted mitral cell responses to a transient response profile, typical of external tufted cells. Our results suggest that despite strong axodendritic synaptic depression, the balance of axodendritic and dendrodendritic circuitry in external tufted cells and mitral cells, respectively, tunes the postsynaptic responses to high frequency, naturalistic stimulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6349-6362
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Physiology
Issue number19
StatePublished - Oct 1 2017


  • Olfactory bulb
  • Presynaptic terminal
  • Release probability
  • external tufted cell
  • mitral cell
  • olfactory receptor neuron

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology


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