Functional structure of the mitral cell dendritic tuft in the rat olfactory bulb

J Neurosci. 2008 Apr 9;28(15):4057-68. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5296-07.2008.


The input-output transform performed by mitral cells, the principal projection neurons of the olfactory bulb, is one of the key factors in understanding olfaction. We used combined calcium and voltage imaging from the same neuron and computer modeling to investigate signal processing in the mitral cells, focusing on the glomerular dendritic tuft. The main finding was that the dendritic tuft functions as a single electrical compartment for subthreshold signals within the range of amplitudes detectable by voltage-sensitive dye recording. These evoked EPSPs had uniform characteristics throughout the glomerular tuft. The Ca(2+) transients associated with spatially uniform subthreshold synaptic potentials were comparable but not equal in amplitude in all regions. The average range of normalized amplitudes of the EPSP-driven Ca(2+) signals from different locations on dendritic branches in the glomerular tuft was relatively narrow and appeared to be independent of the dendritic surface-to-volume ratio. The computer simulations constrained by the imaging data indicated that a synchronized activation of approximately 100 synapses randomly distributed on tuft branches was sufficient to generate spatially homogenous EPSPs. This number of activated synapses is consistent with the data from anatomical studies. Furthermore, voltage attenuation of the EPSP along the primary dendrite at physiological temperature was weak compared with other cell types. In the model, weak attenuation of the EPSP along the primary dendrite could be accounted for by passive electrical properties of the mitral cell.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium Signaling
  • Computer Simulation
  • Dendrites / physiology*
  • Dendrites / ultrastructure*
  • Electrophysiology
  • Excitatory Postsynaptic Potentials / physiology
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Neurons / ultrastructure
  • Olfactory Bulb / physiology
  • Olfactory Bulb / ultrastructure*
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Rats / anatomy & histology
  • Rats / physiology*
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Synaptic Transmission