In order to determine whether molecular features of odorants are represented spatially in the glomerular layer of the olfactory bulb, we used metabolic mapping of [14C] 2-deoxyglucose uptake in rats exposed to equal vapor concentrations of odorants differing systematically in chemical structure. The odorants were ethyl acetate, ethyl butyrate, isoamyl acetate, and isoamyl butyrate. Statistical analysis of anatomically standardized arrays of uptake revealed that each ester produced a characteristic spatial pattern of activity in the glomerular layer. The patterns were similar in different rats exposed to the same odorant, and their complexity increased with increasing odorant carbon number. This finding suggests that the presence of more potentially recognized molecular features is associated with a greater number of activated receptors. Individual regions of the glomerular layer responded specifically to isoamyl esters, and other regions preferred ethyl esters. Regions of similar specificity occurred in lateral and medial aspects of the bulb, the medial representation being more caudal and ventral than the lateral one. This pattern correlates with projections of olfactory sensory neurons expressing the same putative olfactory receptor gene. The patterns overlapped greatly in the posterolateral and posteromedial glomerular layer, a finding one should predict, given the large overlap in chemical structure across the aliphatic esters. Thus, molecular features appear to be encoded spatially in the glomerular layer, and the identity of the odorant may be determined by a subsequent decoding of the combination of molecular features represented in the glomerular layer.