Glutamate neurotransmission in the olfactory bulb involves both axodendritic synapses and dendrodendritic reciprocal synapses and possibly also extrasynaptic receptors. By using a sensitive immunogold procedure, we have investigated the organization of two synaptic scaffolding molecules, PSD-95 and PSD-93, as well as N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) and alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methylisoxazole-4-proprionic acid (AMPA) receptors, at these heterogeneous glutamate signaling sites. Immunolabeling for PSD-95 and PSD-93 was present in all major types of putative glutamatergic synapse, suggesting that these proteins are essential components of the synaptic signaling apparatus. The linear density and the subsynaptic distribution of PSD-95/PSD-93 gold particles did not differ significantly between axodendritic and dendrodendritic synapses. Antibodies recognizing NMDA and AMPA receptor subunits also labeled asymmetric synapses throughout the olfactory bulb. Immunolabeling for the AMPA receptor subunits GluR2/3 was similar in all types of synapse. In contrast, immunogold signals for the NR1 subunit of NMDA receptors varied significantly among different synapse populations, with olfactory nerve synapses in the glomerular layer showing the lowest labeling intensity. Although the lateral dendrites of mitral and tufted cells have been reported to respond to glutamate, they did not display significant plasma membrane labeling for the NR1 subunit or for PSD-95, suggesting that the physiological effects of glutamate at these sites are mediated by NMDA autoreceptors that are not clustered and occur only at a low density on the dendritic surface. Our quantitative analysis of olfactory bulb synapses indicates that the density of NMDA receptors is not determined by the complement of PSD-95/PSD-93. The latter molecules appear to be expressed in an all-or-none fashion and may form a standard lattice common to different types of glutamatergic synapse.
Copyright 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.