The accessory olfactory system controls social and sexual behavior. In the mouse accessory olfactory bulb, the first central stage of information processing along the accessory olfactory pathway, projection neurons (mitral cells) display infra-slow oscillatory discharge with remarkable periodicity. The physiological mechanisms that underlie this default output state, however, remain controversial. Moreover, whether such rhythmic infra-slow activity patterns exist in awake behaving mice and whether such activity reflects the functional organization of the accessory olfactory bulb circuitry remain unclear. Here, we hypothesize that mitral cell ensembles form synchronized microcircuits that subdivide the accessory olfactory bulb into segregated functional clusters. We use a miniature microscope to image the Ca2+ dynamics within the apical dendritic compartments of large mitral cell ensembles in vivo We show that infra-slow periodic patterns of concerted neural activity, indeed, reflect the idle state of accessory olfactory bulb output in awake male and female mice. Ca2+ activity profiles are distinct and glomerulus-specific. Confocal time-lapse imaging in acute slices reveals that groups of mitral cells assemble into microcircuits that exhibit correlated Ca2+ signals. Moreover, electrophysiological profiling of synaptic connectivity indicates functional coupling between mitral cells. Our results suggest that both intrinsically rhythmogenic neurons and neurons entrained by fast synaptic drive are key elements in organizing the accessory olfactory bulb into functional microcircuits, each characterized by a distinct default pattern of infra-slow rhythmicity.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Information processing in the accessory olfactory bulb (AOB) plays a central role in conspecific chemosensory communication. Surprisingly, many basic physiological principles that underlie neuronal signaling in the AOB remain elusive. Here, we show that AOB projection neurons (mitral cells) form parallel synchronized ensembles both in vitro and in vivo Infra-slow synchronous oscillatory activity within AOB microcircuits thus adds a new dimension to chemosensory coding along the accessory olfactory pathway.
Keywords: accessory olfactory bulb; chemosensory coding; ensemble formation; mitral cells; neural oscillations; vomeronasal system.
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