Widespread Inhibition, Antagonism, and Synergy in Mouse Olfactory Sensory Neurons In Vivo

Cell Rep. 2020 Jun 30;31(13):107814. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2020.107814.


Sensory information is selectively or non-selectively enhanced and inhibited in the brain, but it remains unclear whether and how this occurs at the most peripheral level. Using in vivo calcium imaging of mouse olfactory bulb and olfactory epithelium in wild-type and mutant animals, we show that odors produce not only excitatory but also inhibitory responses in olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs). Heterologous assays indicate that odorants can act as agonists to some but inverse agonists to other odorant receptors. We also demonstrate that responses to odor mixtures are extensively suppressed or enhanced in OSNs. When high concentrations of odors are mixed, widespread antagonism suppresses the overall response amplitudes and density. In contrast, a mixture of low concentrations of odors often produces synergistic effects and boosts the faint odor inputs. Thus, odor responses are extensively tuned by inhibition, antagonism, and synergy at the most peripheral level, contributing to robust sensory representations.

Keywords: antagonism; ephaptic coupling; inhibition; inverse agonism; in vivo calcium imaging; odor coding; odorant receptor; olfactory sensory neuron; presynaptic inhibition; synergy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / physiology
  • Biological Assay
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Odorants
  • Olfactory Mucosa / metabolism
  • Olfactory Receptor Neurons / physiology*
  • Presynaptic Terminals / physiology
  • Receptors, Odorant / metabolism


  • Receptors, Odorant