Indexed on: 02 Aug '08Published on: 02 Aug '08Published in: Journal of Comparative Neurology
An unusual property of the olfactory system is that sensory input at the level of the first synapse in the olfactory bulb takes place at two mirror-image glomerular maps that appear identical across the axis of symmetry. It is puzzling how two identical odor maps would contribute to sensory function. The functional units in these maps are the glomeruli, ovoid neuropil structures formed by axons from olfactory sensory neurons expressing the same olfactory receptor. Here we find that the genetically identified P2 glomeruli are asymmetric across the axis of symmetry in terms of responsiveness to urine volatiles and neuroanatomical structure. Furthermore, P2 asymmetry is modified by sensory deprivation and abolished by decreased BDNF levels. Thus, while mirror odor maps show symmetry at the macroscopic level in maps encompassing the entire surface of the olfactory bulb, they display asymmetry at the level of the single glomerulus.