Degeneration and regeneration of olfactory cells induced by ZnSO4 and other chemicals

Tissue Cell. 1982;14(4):717-33. doi: 10.1016/0040-8166(82)90061-1.


The necrotic effect of various salt solutions was tested on the catfish olfactory mucosa. Only zinc cations were able to induce an extensive degeneration of the olfactory cells. Two different modes of irrigation of the mucosa with zinc sulfate were investigated. (1) The olfactory cavity is flushed with the chemical for not more than a few seconds. At concentrations above 30 mM, the resulting damage is very reproducible, largely concentration independent and almost completely specific for the olfactory receptor cells. The non-sensory respiratory cells are unaffected, the sustentacular cells surrounding the receptor cells are affected mainly by a loss of microvilli. The olfactory receptor cells, on the contrary, start to degenerate within a few hours and by day 4 only 20% of the original receptor population remains. Division of the mucosal basal cells increases during days 3 and 4 on and day 6 olfactory receptor cells reach the bare surface of the lamella. After day 7, the receptor population reaches a level of more than 80% of its original value. Because of the absence of sustentacular processes covering the olfactory cell's knobs on day 6, it has been possible to confirm that each of the two types of olfactory receptor cells previously characterized are concentrated on each half of the mucosa (2) The salt is maintained in contact with the tissue for several days. After this treatment most of the lamellae are irreversibly destroyed, some regeneration occurs in limited areas of the mucosa. In these small areas, indifferent respiratory cells reappear first between 20 and 35 days. It is only when the structure of the olfactory tissue is completely reorganized that the new receptor cells reappear between days 45 and 55. Regeneration is not completed before 60-65 days.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axonal Transport / drug effects
  • DNA / biosynthesis
  • Fishes
  • Metals / toxicity
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Olfactory Mucosa / drug effects*
  • Olfactory Mucosa / pathology
  • Olfactory Mucosa / ultrastructure
  • Regeneration
  • Sulfates / toxicity*
  • Zinc / toxicity*
  • Zinc Sulfate


  • Metals
  • Sulfates
  • Zinc Sulfate
  • DNA
  • Zinc