Organization of the olfactory system in the adult zebrafish: histological, immunohistochemical, and quantitative analysis

J Comp Neurol. 1995 Jul 24;358(2):247-59. doi: 10.1002/cne.903580207.


The zebrafish, Danio rerio, is becoming an important model system for developmental studies. We have used a variety of histological techniques to characterize the adult structure of the olfactory system in this teleost to form a base for future developmental work. The olfactory epithelium in this fish contains ciliated and microvillar sensory neurons, microvillar supporting cells, secretory goblet cells, and basal cells, and the adjacent nonsensory epithelium contains ciliated supporting cells. The olfactory bulb is a diffusely organized structure with four laminae: olfactory nerve, glomerular, mixed mitral cell/plexiform, and granule cell layers. These structures and the synapses observed in the olfactory bulb are typical of what is found in other vertebrates. We also examined the distribution of several neurotransmitter markers (tyrosine hydroxylase, neuropeptide Y, dopamine-beta-hydroxylase, and serotonin) in the olfactory bulb. Antibodies to neuropeptide Y, dopamine-beta-hydroxylase, and serotonin labeled fibers in the olfactory bulb and cell bodies in caudal regions of the brain in distributions comparable to other species. Tyrosine hydroxylase immunoreactivity was observed in a set of intrinsic bulb neurons with extensive processes in the glomerular layer. In addition, the structural proteins glial fibrillary acidic protein and vimentin have distributions similar to those in the olfactory bulbs of other animals. Thus, the adult olfactory structures are analogous to the structures in other vertebrate animals in morphology and chemical neuroanatomy. This similarity, along with its numerous advantages for developmental studies, makes the zebrafish a good model for studies of olfaction and forebrain maturation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dopamine beta-Hydroxylase / analysis
  • Epithelium / chemistry
  • Epithelium / ultrastructure
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Neuropeptide Y / analysis
  • Olfactory Bulb / anatomy & histology*
  • Olfactory Bulb / chemistry
  • Olfactory Pathways / anatomy & histology*
  • Olfactory Pathways / chemistry
  • Serotonin / analysis
  • Zebrafish / anatomy & histology*
  • Zebrafish / metabolism


  • Neuropeptide Y
  • Serotonin
  • Dopamine beta-Hydroxylase