Gene-targeted deletion of the predominant Shaker potassium channel, Kv1.3, in the mitral cells of the olfactory bulb, decreases the number of presynaptic, odorant receptor (OR)-identified olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs) in the main olfactory epithelium (MOE) and alters the nature of their postsynaptic connections to mitral cell targets. The current study examined whether OSN density was state-dependent by examining the impact of (1) odor enrichment, (2) sensory deprivation, and (3) aging upon the number of P2- or M72-expressing neurons. Histological approaches were used to quantify the number of OSNs across entire epithelia for wildtype (WT) vs. Kv1.3-null (KO) mice bred onto an ORtauLacZ reporter background. Following either odor enrichment or early unilateral naris-occlusion, the number of M72-expressing OSNs was significantly decreased in WT mice, but was unchanged in KO animals. Following naris-occlusion, the number of P2-expressing OSNs was decreased regardless of genotype. Animals that were reared to 2 years of age demonstrated loss of both P2- and M72-expressing OSNs in WT mice and a concomitant loss of only M72-expressing neurons in KO mice. These findings suggest that voltage-gated activity of the mitral cells is important for OSN plasticity, and can prevent neuronal loss via sensory- and OR-dependent mechanisms.
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