Axon growth and guidance genes identify nascent, immature, and mature olfactory sensory neurons

J Neurosci Res. 2010 Nov 15;88(15):3243-56. doi: 10.1002/jnr.22497.


Neurogenesis of projection neurons requires that axons be initiated, extended, and connected. Differences in the expression of axon growth and guidance genes must drive these events, but comprehensively characterizing these differences in a single neuronal type has not been accomplished. Guided by a catalog of gene expression in olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs), in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry revealed that Cxcr4 and Dbn1, two axon initiation genes, marked the developmental transition from basal progenitor cells to immature OSNs in the olfactory epithelium. The CXCR4 immunoreactivity of these nascent OSNs overlapped partially with markers of proliferation of basal progenitor cells and partially with immunoreactivity for GAP43, the canonical marker of immature OSNs. Intracellular guidance cue signaling transcripts Ablim1, Crmp1, Dypsl2, Dpysl3, Dpysl5, Gap43, Marcskl1, and Stmn1-4 were specific to, or much more abundant in, the immature OSN layer. Receptors that mediate axonal inhibition or repulsion tended to be expressed in both immature and mature OSNs (Plxna1, Plxna4, Nrp2, Efna5) or specifically in mature OSNs (Plxna3, Unc5b, Efna3, Epha5, Epha7), although some were specific to immature OSNs (Plxnb1, Plxnb2, Plxdc2, Nrp1). Cell adhesion molecules were expressed either by both immature and mature OSNs (Dscam, Ncam1, Ncam2, Nrxn1) or solely by immature OSNs (Chl1, Nfasc1, Dscaml1). Given the loss of intracellular signaling protein expression, the continued expression of guidance cue receptors in mature OSNs is consistent with a change in the role of these receptors, perhaps to sending signals back to the cell body and nucleus.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / ultrastructure*
  • Cell Differentiation / genetics
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Growth Cones / metabolism
  • Growth Cones / ultrastructure
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Neurogenesis / genetics*
  • Neuropeptides / genetics*
  • Olfactory Mucosa / growth & development*
  • Receptors, CXCR4 / genetics
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / cytology*
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / metabolism
  • Stem Cells / cytology
  • Stem Cells / metabolism


  • CXCR4 protein, mouse
  • Neuropeptides
  • Receptors, CXCR4
  • drebrins