Intraglomerular gap junctions enhance interglomerular synchrony in a sparsely connected olfactory bulb network

J Physiol. 2017 Sep 1;595(17):5965-5986. doi: 10.1113/JP274408. Epub 2017 Jul 23.


Key points: Despite sparse connectivity, population-level interactions between mitral cells (MCs) and granule cells (GCs) can generate synchronized oscillations in the rodent olfactory bulb. Intraglomerular gap junctions between MCs at the same glomerulus can greatly enhance synchronized activity of MCs at different glomeruli. The facilitating effect of intraglomerular gap junctions on interglomerular synchrony is through triggering of mutually synchronizing interactions between MCs and GCs. Divergent connections between MCs and GCs make minimal direct contribution to synchronous activity.

Abstract: A dominant feature of the olfactory bulb response to odour is fast synchronized oscillations at beta (15-40 Hz) or gamma (40-90 Hz) frequencies, thought to be involved in integration of olfactory signals. Mechanistically, the bulb presents an interesting case study for understanding how beta/gamma oscillations arise. Fast oscillatory synchrony in the activity of output mitral cells (MCs) appears to result from interactions with GABAergic granule cells (GCs), yet the incidence of MC-GC connections is very low, around 4%. Here, we combined computational and experimental approaches to examine how oscillatory synchrony can nevertheless arise, focusing mainly on activity between 'non-sister' MCs affiliated with different glomeruli (interglomerular synchrony). In a sparsely connected model of MCs and GCs, we found first that interglomerular synchrony was generally quite low, but could be increased by a factor of 4 by physiological levels of gap junctional coupling between sister MCs at the same glomerulus. This effect was due to enhanced mutually synchronizing interactions between MC and GC populations. The potent role of gap junctions was confirmed in patch-clamp recordings in bulb slices from wild-type and connexin 36-knockout (KO) mice. KO reduced both beta and gamma local field potential oscillations as well as synchrony of inhibitory signals in pairs of non-sister MCs. These effects were independent of potential KO actions on network excitation. Divergent synaptic connections did not contribute directly to the vast majority of synchronized signals. Thus, in a sparsely connected network, gap junctions between a small subset of cells can, through population effects, greatly amplify oscillatory synchrony amongst unconnected cells.

Keywords: gap junction; olfactory bulb; synchronization.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Connexins / genetics
  • Female
  • Gap Junctions / physiology*
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Inhibitory Postsynaptic Potentials
  • Male
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Models, Biological
  • Olfactory Bulb / physiology*
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley


  • Connexins
  • connexin 36