The Projections of Mitral Cells from Small Local Regions of the Olfactory Bulb: An Anterograde Tracing Study Using PHA-L (Phaseolus vulgaris Leucoagglutinin)

Eur J Neurosci. 1991 Jun;3(6):493-500. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-9568.1991.tb00836.x.


Numerous anatomical and electrophysiological studies have demonstrated a lack of simple point-to-point topographical relationships between the olfactory bulb and primary olfactory projection areas. They reveal instead, a complex pattern of divergence and convergence. Furthermore, several authors reported that a single mitral cell could project onto different widely spaced cortical regions of the olfactory cortex. In the present study, we attempted to label the projections of a few mitral cells so close together so that they might be assumed to be connected to the same glomerulus, and to determine if these cells had similar patterns of axonal projections. For this purpose small Phaseolus vulgaris leucoagglutinin (PHA-L) injections were performed in the olfactory bulb of adult rats. We found that labelling two to five mitral cells, lying close together in the mitral cell layer, resulted in well-delineated patches of labelled fibres in the cortex. The number of patches was not related to the number of labelled mitral cells but the fibre density in each patch increased with the number of PHA-L filled somata in the olfactory bulb. We conclude that mitral cells lying close together in the mitral cell layer have similar patterns of axonal projections. Functional implications of such an organization in olfactory coding is discussed.