Disparate progenitor cell populations contribute to maintenance and repair neurogenesis in the zebrafish olfactory epithelium

Cell Tissue Res. 2022 May;388(2):331-358. doi: 10.1007/s00441-022-03597-x. Epub 2022 Mar 10.


Olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs) undergo constant turnover under physiological conditions but also regenerate efficiently following tissue injury. Maintenance and repair neurogenesis in the olfactory epithelium (OE) have been attributed to the selective activity of globose (GBCs) and horizontal basal cells (HBCs), respectively. In zebrafish, cells with GBC-like properties are localized to the peripheral margins of the sensory OE and contribute to OSN neurogenesis in the intact OE, while cells that resemble HBCs at the morphological and molecular level are more uniformly distributed. However, the contribution of these cells to the restoration of the injured OE has not been demonstrated. Here, we provide a detailed cellular and molecular analysis of the tissue response to injury and show that a dual progenitor cell system also exists in zebrafish. Zebrafish HBCs respond to the structural damage of the OE and generate a transient population of proliferative neurogenic progenitors that restores OSNs. In contrast, selective ablation of OSNs by axotomy triggers neurogenic GBC proliferation, suggesting that distinct signaling events activate GBC and HBC responses. Molecular analysis of differentially expressed genes in lesioned and regenerating OEs points toward an involvement of the canonical Wnt/β-catenin pathway. Activation of Wnt signaling appears to be sufficient to stimulate mitotic activity, while inhibition significantly reduces, but does not fully eliminate, HBC responses. Zebrafish HBCs are surprisingly active even under physiological conditions with a strong bias toward the zones of constitutive OSN neurogenesis, suggestive of a direct lineage relationship between progenitor cell subtypes.

Keywords: Nervous system; Olfactory system; Regeneration; Stem cells; Zebrafish.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation / genetics
  • Neurogenesis / genetics
  • Olfactory Mucosa
  • Olfactory Receptor Neurons* / metabolism
  • Stem Cells
  • Zebrafish*