Effects of urea on the molecules involved in the olfactory signal transduction: a preliminary study on Danio rerio

Fish Physiol Biochem. 2014 Dec;40(6):1793-800. doi: 10.1007/s10695-014-9968-x. Epub 2014 Aug 5.


Among vertebrates, the physiologically uremic Chondrichthyes are the only class which are not presenting the ciliated olfactory receptor neurons in the olfactory neuroepithelium. The only sequenced genome for this class revealed only three olfactory receptor genes and the immunohistochemical detection of G protein alpha subunit typically coupled to the olfactory receptors (Gα(olf)) failed in different species. Chronic renal disease can represent a cause of olfactory impairment in human. In this context, our present study focused on investigating potential effects of high urea concentration on the olfactory epithelium of vertebrates. Larvae of the teleost fish Danio rerio were exposed to urea in order to assess the effects on the olfactory signal transduction; in particular on both the olfactory receptors and the Gα(olf). The endocytosis of neutral red dye in the olfactory mucosa was detected in control and urea-exposed larvae. The amount of neutral red dye uptake was used as a marker of binding and internalization of the Gα(olf). The neutral red dye endocytosis was not affected by urea exposure, hence suggesting that the presence of the Gα(olf) and their binding to the odorants are not affected by urea treatment, either. The presence and distribution of Gα(olf) were investigated in the olfactory epithelium of control and urea-exposed larvae, using a commercial antibody. The immunoreactivity was increased after urea treatment, suggesting an effect of urea on the expression or degradation of this G protein alpha subunit.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian / drug effects
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian / physiology
  • GTP-Binding Protein alpha Subunits / metabolism
  • Larva / drug effects
  • Larva / physiology
  • Neutral Red
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Smell / drug effects
  • Smell / physiology*
  • Urea / pharmacology*
  • Zebrafish / embryology
  • Zebrafish / physiology*


  • GTP-Binding Protein alpha Subunits
  • olfactory G protein subunit alpha olf
  • Neutral Red
  • Urea