Multiple and opposing roles of cholinergic transmission in the main olfactory bulb.

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The main olfactory bulb is a critical relay step between the olfactory epithelium and the olfactory cortex. A marked feature of the bulb is its massive innervation by cholinergic inputs from the basal forebrain.

In this study, we addressed the functional interaction between cholinergic inputs and intrinsic bulbar circuitry. Determining the roles of acetylcholine (ACh) requires the characterization of cholinergic effects on both neural excitability and synaptic transmission. For this purpose, we used electrophysiological techniques to localize and characterize the diverse roles of ACh in mouse olfactory bulb slices.

We found that cholinergic inputs have a surprising number of target receptor populations that are expressed on three different neuronal types in the bulb. Specifically, nicotinic acetylcholine receptors excite both the output neurons of the bulb, i.e., the mitral cells, as well as interneurons located in the periglomerular regions. These nicotine-induced responses in interneurons are short lasting, whereas responses in mitral cells are long lasting.

In contrast, muscarinic receptors have an inhibitory effect on the firing rate of interneurons from a deeper layer, granule cells, while at the same time they increase the degree of activity-independent transmitter release from these cells onto mitral cells.

Cholinergic signaling thus was found to have multiple and opposing roles in the olfactory bulb. These dual cholinergic effects on mitral cells and interneurons may be important in modulating olfactory bulb output to central structures required for driven behaviors and may be relevant to understanding mechanisms underlying the perturbations of cholinergic inputs to cortex that occur in Alzheimer’s disease.

Source: J Neurosci 1999 Nov 1;19(21):9180-91

PMID: 10531421, UI: 20002775

(Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Institut Alfred Fessard, 91198 Gif-sur-Yvette Cedex, France.)

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