Cholecystokinin: an excitatory modulator of mitral/tufted cells in the mouse olfactory bulb

PLoS One. 2013 May 15;8(5):e64170. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0064170. Print 2013.


Cholecystokinin (CCK) is widely distributed in the brain as a sulfated octapeptide (CCK-8S). In the olfactory bulb, CCK-8S is concentrated in two laminae: an infraglomerular band in the external plexiform layer, and an inframitral band in the internal plexiform layer (IPL), corresponding to somata and terminals of superficial tufted cells with intrabulbar projections linking duplicate glomerular maps of olfactory receptors. The physiological role of CCK in this circuit is unknown. We made patch clamp recordings of CCK effects on mitral cell spike activity in mouse olfactory bulb slices, and applied immunohistochemistry to localize CCKB receptors. In cell-attached recordings, mitral cells responded to 300 nM-1 µM CCK-8S by spike excitation, suppression, or mixed excitation-suppression. Antagonists of GABAA and ionotropic glutamate receptors blocked suppression, but excitation persisted. Whole-cell recordings revealed that excitation was mediated by a slow inward current, and suppression by spike inactivation or inhibitory synaptic input. Similar responses were elicited by the CCKB receptor-selective agonist CCK-4 (1 µM). Excitation was less frequent but still occurred when CCKB receptors were blocked by LY225910, or disrupted in CCKB knockout mice, and was also observed in CCKA knockouts. CCKB receptor immunoreactivity was detected on mitral and superficial tufted cells, colocalized with Tbx21, and was absent from granule cells and the IPL. Our data indicate that CCK excites mitral cells postsynaptically, via both CCKA and CCKB receptors. We hypothesize that extrasynaptic CCK released from tufted cell terminals in the IPL may diffuse to and directly excite mitral cell bodies, creating a positive feedback loop that can amplify output from pairs of glomeruli receiving sensory inputs encoded by the same olfactory receptor. Dynamic plasticity of intrabulbar projections suggests that this could be an experience-dependent amplification mechanism for tuning and optimizing olfactory bulb signal processing in different odor environments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Animals
  • Cholecystokinin / pharmacology
  • Cholecystokinin / physiology*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Olfactory Bulb / cytology
  • Olfactory Bulb / drug effects
  • Olfactory Bulb / physiology*


  • Cholecystokinin