Individual olfactory sensory neurons project into more than one glomerulus in Xenopus laevis tadpole olfactory bulb

J Comp Neurol. 2005 Jan 17;481(3):233-9. doi: 10.1002/cne.20390.


An essential step in the coding of odorants is the way olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs) convey their information to the olfactory bulb. This projection determines how the specificities of OSNs are mapped onto the spatial activity patterns of the olfactory bulb (OB). Despite the fact that virtually nothing is known about how individual OSN axons project to glomeruli, it is generally believed that OSNs always project to one glomerulus each. Our recent findings in tadpoles of Xenopus laevis challenge this view. By injection of a tracer into individual OSNs, we show for the first time that axons typically project into more than one glomerulus and that they do so in a characteristic way. Upon entering the olfactory bulb, an axon bifurcates to give two primary branches. Each of these branches bifurcates again to give two subbranches, thus resulting in four subbranches per OSN. The two subbranches of each primary branch project into two different glomeruli. Variations of this characteristic innervation pattern include the innervation of three and, occasionally, one glomerulus. In any case, and independent of the number of glomeruli innervated by an OSN, each glomerulus receives at least two axonal branches of the same OSN.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / physiology
  • Axons / ultrastructure*
  • Larva / physiology
  • Larva / ultrastructure
  • Lysine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Models, Biological
  • Olfactory Bulb / cytology*
  • Olfactory Bulb / physiology
  • Olfactory Receptor Neurons / cytology*
  • Olfactory Receptor Neurons / physiology
  • Presynaptic Terminals / physiology
  • Presynaptic Terminals / ultrastructure
  • Smell / physiology
  • Species Specificity
  • Synapses / physiology
  • Synapses / ultrastructure*
  • Xenopus laevis / anatomy & histology*
  • Xenopus laevis / physiology


  • biocytin
  • Lysine