The chemical sensitivity and electrical activity of individual olfactory sensory neurons to a range of sex pheromones and food odors in the goldfish

Koji Sato, Peter W. Sorensen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Although it is well established that the olfactory epithelium of teleost fish detects at least 6 classes of biologically relevant odorants using 5 types of olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs), little is understood about the specificity of individual OSNs and thus how they encode identity of natural odors. In this study, we used in vivo extracellular single-unit recording to examine the odor responsiveness and physiological characteristics of 109 individual OSNs in mature male goldfish to a broad range of biological odorants including feeding stimuli (amino acids, polyamines, nucleotides), sex pheromones (sex steroids, prostaglandins [PGs]), and a putative social cue (bile acids). Sixty-one OSNs were chemosensitive, with over half of these (36) responding to amino acids, 7 to polyamines, 7 to nucleotides, 5 to bile acids, 9 to PGs, and 7 to sex steroids. Approximately a quarter of the amino acid-sensitive units also responded to polyamines or nucleotides. Three of 6 amino acid-sensitive units responded to more than 1 amino acid compound, and 5 sex pheromone-sensitive units detected just 1 sex pheromone. While pheromone-sensitive OSNs also responded to the adenylyl cyclase activator, forskolin, amino acid-sensitive OSNs responded to either forskolin or a phospholipase C activator, imipramine. Most OSNs responded to odorants and activators with excitation. Our results suggest that pheromone information is encoded by OSNs specifically tuned to single sex pheromones and employ adenylyl cyclase, suggestive of a labeled-line organization, while food information is encoded by a combination of OSNs that use both adenylyl cyclase and phospholipase C and are often less specifically tuned.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)249-260
Number of pages12
JournalChemical Senses
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 23 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Dr. John Caprio and Shane Rolen for their advice on single-unit recording and John for his helpful editorial advice. We also thank Dr. Andrej Blejec for help with statistical analysis and Asuka Sumita for help with singleunit data analysis.This study was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health-DC03792 (to P.W.S.) and the Okazaki ORION Project, JSPS KAKENHI Grant Number 16H04226 and Takeda Science Foundation (to K.S.)

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.


  • Amino acid
  • Electrophysiology
  • Goldfish
  • Olfactory receptor neurons
  • Sex pheromone
  • Signal transduction


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