The mammalian accessory olfactory system is specialized for the detection of chemicals that identify kin and conspecifics. Vomeronasal sensory neurons (VSNs) residing in the vomeronasal organ project axons to the accessory olfactory bulb (AOB), where they form synapses with principal neurons known as mitral cells. The organization of this projection is quite precise and is believed to be essential for appropriate function of this system. However, how this precise connectivity is established is unknown. We show here that in mice the vomeronasal duct is open at birth, allowing external chemical stimuli access to sensory neurons, and that these sensory neurons are capable of releasing neurotransmitter to downstream neurons as early as the first postnatal day (P). Using major histocompatibility complex class I peptides to activate a selective subset of VSNs during the first few postnatal days of development, we show that increased activity results in exuberant VSN axonal projections and a delay in axonal coalescence into well defined glomeruli in the AOB. Finally, we show that mitral cell dendritic refinement occurs just after the coalescence of presynaptic axons. Such a mechanism may allow the formation of precise connectivity with specific glomeruli that receive input from sensory neurons expressing the same receptor type.
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