Background: The axons of Olfactory Sensory Neurons (OSNs) project to reproducible target locations within the Olfactory Bulb (OB), converting odorant experience into a spatial map of neural activity. We characterized the initial targeting of OSN axons in the zebrafish, a model system suitable for studying axonal targeting early in development. In this system the initial targets of OSN axons are a small number of distinct, individually identifiable neuropilar regions called protoglomeruli. Previously, Olfactory Marker Protein-expressing and TRPC2-expressing classes of OSNs were shown to project to specific, non-overlapping sets of protoglomeruli, indicating that particular subsets of OSNs project to specific protoglomerular targets. We set out to map the relationship between the classical Odorant Receptor (OR) an OSN chooses to express and the protoglomerulus its axon targets.
Methods: A panel of BACs were recombineered so that the axons of OSNs choosing to express modified ORs were fluorescently labeled. Axon projections were followed into the olfactory bulb to determine the protoglomeruli in which they terminated.
Results: RNA-seq demonstrates that OSNs express a surprisingly wide variety of ORs and Trace Amine Associated Receptors (TAARs) very early when sensory axons are arriving in the bulb. Only a single OR is expressed in any given OSN even at these early developmental times. We used a BAC expression technique to map the trajectories of OSNs expressing specific odorant receptors. ORs can be divided into three clades based upon their sequence similarities. OSNs expressing ORs from two of these clades project to the CZ protoglomerulus, while OSNs expressing ORs from the third clade project to the DZ protoglomerulus. In contrast, OSNs expressing a particular TAAR project to multiple protoglomeruli. Neither OR choice nor axonal targeting are related to the position an OSN occupies within the olfactory pit.
Conclusions: Our results demonstrate that it is not the choice of a particular OR, but of one from a category of ORs, that is related to initial OSN target location within the olfactory bulb. These choices are not related to OSN position within the olfactory epithelium.
Keywords: Axon guidance; OSN targeting; Odorant map; Odorant receptor; Olfaction; Olfactory; Olfactory bulb; Olfactory sensory neuron; Protoglomerulus; Zebrafish.