Presynaptic inhibition of olfactory sensory neurons: New mechanisms and potential functions

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Presynaptic inhibition is the suppression of neurotransmitter release from a neuron by inhibitory input onto its presynaptic terminal. In the olfactory system, the primary sensory afferents from the olfactory neuroepithelium to the brain's olfactory bulb are strongly modulated by a presynaptic inhibition that has been studied extensively in brain slices and in vivo. In rodents, this inhibition is mediated by -amino butyric acid (GABA) and dopamine released from bulbar interneurons. The specialized GABAergic circuit is now well understood to include a specific subset of GAD65-expressing periglomerular interneurons that stimulate presynaptic GABAB receptors to reduce presynaptic calcium conductance. This inhibition is organized to permit the selective modulation of neurotransmitter release from specific populations of olfactory sensory neurons based on their odorant receptor expression, includes specialized microcircuits to create a tonically active inhibition and a separate feedback inhibition evoked by sensory input, and can be modulated by centrifugal projections from other brain regions. Olfactory nerve output can also be modulated by dopaminergic circuitry, but this literature is more difficult to interpret. Presynaptic inhibition of olfactory afferents may extend their dynamic range but could also create state-dependent or odorant-specific sensory filters on primary sensory representations. New directions exploring this circuit's role in olfactory processing are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)459-474
Number of pages16
JournalChemical senses
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jul 2013


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


  • Dynamic range
  • GABAB receptor
  • Odor coding
  • Perceptual filter
  • Synaptic physiology

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