CaMKIIα Expression Defines Two Functionally Distinct Populations of Granule Cells Involved in Different Types of Odor Behavior

Curr Biol. 2017 Nov 6;27(21):3315-3329.e6. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.09.058. Epub 2017 Oct 26.


Granule cells (GCs) in the olfactory bulb (OB) play an important role in odor information processing. Although they have been classified into various neurochemical subtypes, the functional roles of these subtypes remain unknown. We used in vivo two-photon Ca2+ imaging combined with cell-type-specific identification of GCs in the mouse OB to examine whether functionally distinct GC subtypes exist in the bulbar network. We showed that half of GCs express Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase IIα (CaMKIIα+) and that these neurons are preferentially activated by olfactory stimulation. The higher activity of CaMKIIα+ neurons is due to the weaker inhibitory input that they receive compared to their CaMKIIα-immunonegative (CaMKIIα-) counterparts. In line with these functional data, immunohistochemical analyses showed that 75%-90% of GCs expressing the immediate early gene cFos are CaMKIIα+ in naive animals and in mice that have been exposed to a novel odor and go/no-go operant conditioning, or that have been subjected to long-term associative memory and spontaneous habituation/dishabituation odor discrimination tasks. On the other hand, a perceptual learning task resulted in increased activation of CaMKIIα- cells. Pharmacogenetic inhibition of CaMKIIα+ GCs revealed that this subtype is involved in habituation/dishabituation and go/no-go odor discrimination, but not in perceptual learning. In contrast, pharmacogenetic inhibition of GCs in a subtype-independent manner affected perceptual learning. Our results indicate that functionally distinct populations of GCs exist in the OB and that they play distinct roles during different odor tasks.

Keywords: CaMKIIα; granule cells; in vivo Ca(2+) imaging; odor discrimination; olfaction; olfactory bulb; perceptual learning; pharmacogenetics.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Calcium-Calmodulin-Dependent Protein Kinase Type 2 / biosynthesis
  • Calcium-Calmodulin-Dependent Protein Kinase Type 2 / genetics*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Odorants
  • Olfactory Bulb / physiology*
  • Olfactory Perception / physiology*


  • Calcium-Calmodulin-Dependent Protein Kinase Type 2