Neuromodulation in the Olfactory Bulb

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Neuromodulation of olfactory circuits by acetylcholine (ACh) plays an important role in odor discrimination and learning. Early processing of chemosensory signals occurs in two functionally and anatomically distinct regions, the main and accessory olfactory bulbs (MOB and AOB), which receive significant cholinergic input from the basal forebrain. Here we explore the regulation of AOB and MOB circuits by ACh, and how this modulation influences olfactory mediated behaviors. Surprisingly, despite the presence of a conserved circuit, activation of muscarinic ACh receptors revealed marked differences in cholinergic modulation of output neurons: excitation in the AOB and inhibition in the MOB. Granule cells (GCs), the most abundant intrinsic neuron in the OB, also exhibited a complex muscarinic response. While GCs in the AOB were excited, MOB GCs exhibited a dual muscarinic action, a hyperpolarization and an increase in excitability uncovered by cell depolarization. Furthermore, ACh had a different effect on the input/output relationship of MCs in the AOB and MOB, showing a net effect on gain in MCs of the MOB, but not in the AOB. Interestingly, despite the striking differences in neuromodulatory actions on output neurons, chemogenetic inhibition of ACh release produced similar perturbations in olfactory behaviors mediated by these two regions. Decreasing ACh in the OB disrupted the natural discrimination of molecularly related odors and the natural investigation of odors associated with social behaviors. Thus, the distinct neuromodulation by ACh in these circuits could underlie different solutions to the processing of general odors and semiochemicals, and the diverse olfactory behaviors they trigger.