Characteristics of odorant elicited calcium changes in cultured human olfactory neurons

George Gomez, Nancy E. Rawson, Chang Gyu Hahn, Robin Michaels, Diego Restrepo

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43 Scopus citations


An important step in establishing and utilizing a cell culture system for the in vitro study of olfaction is assessing whether the cultured cells possess physiological properties similar to those of mature olfactory neurons. Various investigators have successfully established proliferating cell lines from olfactory tissue, but few have demonstrated the characteristics of odor sensitivity of these cells. We successfully established cultured cell lines from adult human olfactory tissue obtained using an olfactory biopsy procedure and measured their ability to respond to odor stimulation using calcium imaging techniques. A subset of the human olfactory cells in culture displayed a distinct morphology and specifically expressed immunocytochemical markers characteristic of mature human olfactory neurons such as OMP, G(olf), NCAM and NST. Under defined growth conditions, these cultured cells responded to odorant mixes that have been previously shown to elicit intracellular calcium changes in acutely-isolated human olfactory neurons. These odorant-elicited calcium responses displayed characteristics similar to those found in mature human olfactory neurons. First, cultured cells responded with either increases or decreases in intracellular calcium. Second, increases in calcium were abolished by removal of extracellular calcium. Third, inhibitors of the olfactory signal transduction cascades reversibly blocked these odorant-elicited intracellular calcium changes. Our results demonstrate that cultures of adult human olfactory cells established from olfactory biopsies retain some of the in vivo odorant response characteristics of acutely isolated cells from the adult olfactory epithelium. This work has important ramifications for investigation of olfactory function and dysfunction using biopsy procedures and in vitro assays of odor sensitivity. (C) 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)737-749
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Neuroscience Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2000


  • Calcium imaging
  • Cell culture
  • In vitro model
  • Olfaction


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