Serotonin modulates the population activity profile of olfactory bulb external tufted cells

J Neurophysiol. 2012 Jan;107(1):473-83. doi: 10.1152/jn.00741.2011. Epub 2011 Oct 19.


Serotonergic neurons in the raphe nuclei constitute one of the most prominent neuromodulatory systems in the brain. Projections from the dorsal and median raphe nuclei provide dense serotonergic innervation of the glomeruli of olfactory bulb. Odor information is initially processed by glomeruli, thus serotonergic modulation of glomerular circuits impacts all subsequent odor coding in the olfactory system. The present study discloses that serotonin (5-HT) produces excitatory modulation of external tufted (ET) cells, a pivotal neuron in the operation of glomerular circuits. The modulation is due to a transient receptor potential (TRP) channel-mediated inward current induced by activation of 5-HT(2A) receptors. This current produces membrane depolarization and increased bursting frequency in ET cells. Interestingly, the magnitude of the inward current and increased bursting inversely correlate with ET cell spontaneous (intrinsic) bursting frequency: slower bursting ET cells are more strongly modulated than faster bursting cells. Serotonin thus differentially impacts ET cells such that the mean bursting frequency of the population is increased. This centrifugal modulation could impact odor processing by: 1) increasing ET cell excitatory drive on inhibitory neurons to increase presynaptic inhibition of olfactory sensory inputs and postsynaptic inhibition of mitral/tufted cells; and/or 2) coordinating ET cell bursting with exploratory sniffing frequencies (5-8 Hz) to facilitate odor coding.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Olfactory Bulb / physiology*
  • Olfactory Receptor Neurons / physiology*
  • Serotonergic Neurons / physiology*
  • Serotonin / metabolism*
  • Smell / physiology*
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology*


  • Serotonin