Mitral cells (MCs) are a major class of principal neurons in the vertebrate olfactory bulb, conveying odor-evoked activity from the peripheral sensory neurons to olfactory cortex. Previous work has described the development of MC morphology and connectivity during the first few weeks of postnatal development. However, little is known about the postnatal development of MC intrinsic biophysical properties. To understand stimulus encoding in the developing olfactory bulb, we have therefore examined the development of MC intrinsic biophysical properties in acute slices from postnatal day (P)7-P35 mice. Across development, we observed systematic changes in passive membrane properties and action potential waveforms consistent with a developmental increase in sodium and potassium conductances. We further observed developmental decreases in hyperpolarization-evoked membrane potential sag and firing regularity, extending recent links between MC sag heterogeneity and firing patterns. We then applied a novel combination of statistical analyses to examine how the evolution of these intrinsic biophysical properties specifically influenced the representation of fluctuating stimuli by MCs. We found that immature MCs responded to frozen fluctuating stimuli with lower firing rates, lower spike-time reliability, and lower between-cell spike-time correlations than more mature MCs. Analysis of spike-triggered averages revealed that these changes in spike timing were driven by a developmental shift from broad integration of inputs to more selective detection of coincident inputs. Consistent with this shift, generalized linear model fits to MC firing responses demonstrated an enhanced encoding of high-frequency stimulus features by mature MCs.
Keywords: development; generalized linear model; intrinsic biophysical properties; olfaction; stimulus encoding.
Copyright © 2015 the American Physiological Society.