abundant behavioral evidence shows that a male moth's ability to locate a pheromone source is greatly improved if the odor plume is discontinuous (35). Because spatial discontinuity of the pheromonal signal in the environment is detected by a flying male moth as temporally intermittent stimuli, intermittent pheromonal stimuli received by a male's antenna must be registered by MGC PNs. We discovered that certain pheromone specialist PNs have greatly enhanced ability to follow pulsed pheromonal stimuli with corresponding bursts of impulses. These are the PNs cited above that can discriminate between components A and B because one of these key components excites the cells while the other inhibits them. This inhibitory input to such PNs enhances their ability to follow brief pulses of pheromone blends delivered at frequencies up to 10 stimuli per sec by controlling the duration of excitatory responses and preparing the PN for the next bout of excitation (77).

Synaptic Mechanisms in the AL

Having characterized many AL neurons both morphologically and physiologically, we have sought to explain how their characteristic patterns of responses to olfactory stimuli are generated. To accomplish this mechanistic goal, we must analyze the synaptic ''wiring" of the AL, test physiologically for synaptic interactions between known types of AL neurons, identify neurotransmitters and synaptic mechanisms employed by AL neurons for intercellular communication, and seek evidence for and mechanisms of integration of other modalities with olfactory inputs in the ALs.

Synapses between ORC axons and their AL target neurons are excitatory and appear to be mediated by the neurotransmitter acetylcholine acting through nicotinic cholinoceptive mechanisms (40, 71, 78-82). Another prominent neurotransmitter in the ALs is γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) (79, 83). GABA immunocytochemistry has revealed that all of the GABA-immunoreactive neurons in the AL have somata in the large lateral cell group of the AL (84). There are ≈350 GABA-immunoreactive LNs and 110 GABA-immunoreactive PNs (i.e., ≈30% of the neurons in the lateral cell group may be GABAergic) (19, 84). Most (and possibly all) of the LNs are GABA-immunoreactive and thus may be inhibitory interneurons. The important inhibitory postsynaptic potential (IPSP) that enables certain pheromone specialist MGC PNs to follow intermittent pheromonal stimuli (see above) appears to be due to chemical-synaptic transmission mediated by GABA (85). This IPSP reverses below the PNs' resting potential and is mediated by an increased Cl? conductance. This IPSP can be inhibited reversibly by picrotoxin, which blocks GABA receptor-gated Cl? channels, and by bicuculline, a blocker of vertebrate



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement