Diagram of the primary olfactory pathway is the bipolar olfactory receptor neuron (ORN), with a cell body and dendrite in the olfactory epithelium of peripheral nervous system (PNS). The axon projects to the olfactory bulb of the CNS, where they synapse with target neuron
An excellent system in which to pursue this question of the influence of environmental stimulus on neuronal gene expression is the vertebrate olfactory system, which is a key point of contact between neurons and the environment. The sense of smell is based on the ability of specialized cells, the olfactory receptor neurons (ORNs) to respond to environmental chemicals by initiating a nerve impulse (Fig. 1). The olfactory system is, therefore, a very useful model to study how the brain function reacts to environmental stimulus. Stimulus-dependent regulation of neuronal function in response to changes in the chemical environment ultimately lies in changes of gene expression in the olfactory epithelium.
We focus on the events occurring in the olfactory epithelium, the interaction between the input stimulus and ORNs that results in the generation of a nerve impulse, changes of ORN turnover, movement of neurotransmitter and the ultimate modification of brain function. We hypothesize that there are extensive changes in gene expression specifically associated with deprivation in odor stimulation.
We utilize a range of biochemical, molecular and anatomical techniques in the lab such as
- protein characterization by isolation, proteomics tools, and western blotting;
- cDNA cloning, RT-PCR, adenovirus-mediated gene delivery and protein expression; and
- in situ hybridization, histology and immunocytochemistry.
Dr. Frank L. Margolis: Characterization of the Bex proteins, interacting partners to the olfactory marker protein.
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