The continuous replacement of neurons in the olfactory epithelium provides an advantageous model for investigating neuronal differentiation and maturation. By calculating the relative enrichment of every mRNA detected in samples of mature mouse olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs), immature OSNs, and the residual population of neighboring cell types, and then comparing these ratios against the known expression patterns of >300 genes, enrichment criteria that accurately predicted the OSN expression patterns of nearly all genes were determined. We identified 847 immature OSN-specific and 691 mature OSN-specific genes. The control of gene expression by chromatin modification and transcription factors, and neurite growth, protein transport, RNA processing, cholesterol biosynthesis, and apoptosis via death domain receptors, were overrepresented biological processes in immature OSNs. Ion transport (ion channels), presynaptic functions, and cilia-specific processes were overrepresented in mature OSNs. Processes overrepresented among the genes expressed by all OSNs were protein and ion transport, ER overload response, protein catabolism, and the electron transport chain. To more accurately represent gradations in mRNA abundance and identify all genes expressed in each cell type, classification methods were used to produce probabilities of expression in each cell type for every gene. These probabilities, which identified 9,300 genes expressed in OSNs, were 96% accurate at identifying genes expressed in OSNs and 86% accurate at discriminating genes specific to mature and immature OSNs. This OSN gene database not only predicts the genes responsible for the major biological processes active in OSNs, but also identifies thousands of never before studied genes that support OSN phenotypes.
Copyright © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.