Information coding in the olfactory system: evidence for a stereotyped and highly organized epitope map in the olfactory bulb

Cell. 1994 Dec 30;79(7):1245-55. doi: 10.1016/0092-8674(94)90015-9.


In the mammalian olfactory system, information from approximately 1000 different odorant receptor types is organized in the nose into four spatial zones. Each zone is a mosaic of randomly distributed neurons expressing different receptor types. In these studies, we have obtained evidence that information highly distributed in the nose is transformed in the olfactory bulb of the brain into a highly organized spatial map. We find that specific odorant receptor gene probes hybridize in situ to small, and distinct, subsets of olfactory bulb glomeruli. The spatial and numerical characteristics of the patterns of hybridization that we observe with different receptor probes indicate that, in the olfactory bulb, olfactory information undergoes a remarkable organization into a fine, and perhaps stereotyped, spatial map. In our view, this map is in essence an epitope map, whose approximately 1000 distinct components are used in a multitude of different combinations to discriminate a vast array of different odors.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / chemistry
  • Brain Mapping
  • Epitope Mapping
  • In Situ Hybridization, Fluorescence
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Odorants
  • Olfactory Bulb / chemistry
  • Olfactory Bulb / physiology*
  • Olfactory Bulb / ultrastructure
  • Olfactory Receptor Neurons / chemistry*
  • Olfactory Receptor Neurons / physiology*
  • Olfactory Receptor Neurons / ultrastructure
  • RNA / analysis*
  • Receptors, Odorant / genetics*


  • Receptors, Odorant
  • RNA