Olfactory marker protein (OMP) is expressed by mature primary olfactory sensory neurons during development and in adult mice. In mice that lack OMP, olfactory sensory neurons have perturbed electrophysiological activity, and the mice exhibit altered responses and behavior to odor stimulation. To date, defects in axon guidance in mice that lack OMP have not been investigated. During development of the olfactory system in mouse, primary olfactory axons often overshoot their target glomerular layer and project into the deeper external plexiform layer. These aberrant axonal projections are normally detected within the external plexiform layer up to postnatal day 12. We have examined the projections of primary olfactory axons in OMP-tau:LacZ mice and OMP-GFP mice, two independent lines in which the OMP coding region has been replaced by reporter molecules. We found that axons overshoot their target layer and grow into the external plexiform layer in these OMP null mice as they do in wild-type animals. However, in the absence of OMP, overshooting axons are more persistent and remain prominent until 5 weeks postnatally, after which their numbers decrease. Overshooting axons are still present in these mice even at 8 months of age. In heterozygous mice, axons also overshoot into the external plexiform layer; however, there are fewer axons, and they project for shorter distances, compared with those in a homozygous environment. Our results suggest that perturbed electrophysiological responses, caused by loss of OMP in primary olfactory neurons, reduce the ability of primary olfactory axons to recognize their glomerular target.
Copyright 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.