Representation and transformation of sensory information in the mouse accessory olfactory system

Nat Neurosci. 2010 Jun;13(6):723-30. doi: 10.1038/nn.2546. Epub 2010 May 9.


In mice, nonvolatile social cues are detected and analyzed by the accessory olfactory system (AOS). Here we provide a first view of information processing in the AOS with respect to individual chemical cues. 12 sulfated steroids, recently discovered mouse AOS ligands, caused widespread activity among vomeronasal sensory neurons (VSNs), yet VSN responses clustered into a small number of repeated functional patterns or processing streams. Downstream neurons in the accessory olfactory bulb (AOB) responded to these ligands with enhanced signal/noise compared to VSNs. Although the dendritic connectivity of AOB mitral cells suggests the capacity for broad integration, most sulfated steroid responses were well-modeled by linear excitatory drive from just one VSN processing stream. However, a substantial minority demonstrated multi-stream integration. Most VSN excitation patterns were also observed in the AOB, but excitation by estradiol sulfate processing streams was rare, suggesting AOB circuit organization is specific to the biological relevance of sensed cues.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Animals
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Cues
  • Dendrites / physiology
  • Estradiol
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Microelectrodes
  • Models, Neurological
  • Olfactory Bulb / physiology*
  • Olfactory Perception / physiology*
  • Physical Stimulation
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / physiology*
  • Social Perception
  • Steroids
  • Sulfates
  • Urine
  • Vomeronasal Organ / physiology*


  • Steroids
  • Sulfates
  • Estradiol