Local and global chemotopic organization: general features of the glomerular representations of aliphatic odorants differing in carbon number

J Comp Neurol. 2004 Dec 6;480(2):234-49. doi: 10.1002/cne.20335.


To determine whether there is a general strategy used by the olfactory system to represent odorants differing in carbon chain length, rats were exposed to homologous series of straight-chained, saturated aliphatic aldehydes, ethyl esters, acetates, ketones, primary alcohols, and secondary alcohols (32 odorants total). Neural activity across the entire glomerular layer of the olfactory bulb was mapped quantitatively by measuring uptake of [14C]2-deoxyglucose evoked by each odorant. Uptake was observed both in dorsal glomerular modules previously associated with the particular odorant functional groups and in more ventral and posterior modules. Aldehyde-evoked activity patterns were dominated by ventral modules that included the area receiving projections from octanal-responsive sensory neurons expressing the I7 odorant receptor. The dorsal area that has been the focus of optical imaging studies of aldehyde responses contained only minor activity. For all functional groups except for ketones, uptake within functional group-sensitive modules displayed local chemotopy, with longer odorants stimulating more ventral and rostral glomeruli. In more posterior regions, chemotopy was observed for all functional groups, again with uptake shifting ventrally and rostrally with increasing chain length. In addition to these local shifts in activity, correlations analysis of entire activity patterns revealed a global chemotopic organization for all odorant series, with each odorant evoking a pattern most similar to odorants possessing the same functional group but differing by only one carbon in length. Thus, global chemotopy and local modular chemotopy appear to be fundamental principles underlying the representation of odorants differing in carbon chain length.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Deoxyglucose / metabolism
  • Odorants*
  • Olfactory Bulb / chemistry
  • Olfactory Bulb / drug effects*
  • Olfactory Bulb / metabolism*
  • Rats
  • Receptors, Odorant / analysis
  • Receptors, Odorant / metabolism*


  • Receptors, Odorant
  • Deoxyglucose