We have developed a genetic approach to visualize axons from olfactory sensory neurons expressing a given odorant receptor, as they project to the olfactory bulb. Neurons expressing a specific receptor project to only two topographically fixed loci among the 1800 glomeruli in the mouse olfactory bulb. Our data provide direct support for a model in which a topographic map of receptor activation encodes odor quality in the olfactory bulb. Receptor swap experiments suggest that the olfactory receptor plays an instructive role in the guidance process but cannot be the sole determinant in the establishment of this map. This genetic approach may be more broadly applied to visualize the development and plasticity of projections in the mammalian nervous system.
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