Literature context: Thermo Fisher Scientific P21962 RRID:AB_2539844 Rabbit
The olfactory epithelium (OE) of vertebrates is a highly regenerative neuroepithelium, maintained under normal condition by a population of stem and progenitor cells - globose basal cells (GBCs) that also contribute to epithelial reconstitution after injury. However, aging of the OE often leads to neurogenic exhaustion - the disappearance of both GBCs and olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs). Aneuronal tissue may remain as olfactory, with an uninterrupted sheet of apically arrayed microvillar-capped sustentacular cell, or may undergo respiratory metaplasia. We have generated a transgenic mouse model for neurogenic exhaustion using OMP-driven Tet-off regulation of the A subunit of Diphtheria toxin such that the death of mature OSNs is accelerated. As early as 2 months of age the epithelium of transgenic mice, regardless of sex, recapitulates what is seen in the aged OE of humans and rodents. Areas of the epithelium completely lack neurons and GBCs, while the horizontal basal cells, a reserve stem cell population, show no evidence of activation. Surprisingly, other areas that were olfactory undergo respiratory metaplasia. The impact of accelerated neuronal death and reduced innervation on the olfactory bulb (OB) is also examined. Constant neuronal turnover leaves glomeruli shrunken and impacts the dopaminergic interneurons in the periglomerular layer. Moreover, the acceleration of OSN death can be reversed in those areas where some GBCs persist. However, the projection onto the OB recovers incompletely and the reinnervated glomeruli are markedly altered. Thus, the capacity for OE regeneration is tempered when GBCs disappear.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENTA large percentage of humans lose or suffer a significant decline in olfactory function as they age. Consequently, quality of life suffers, and safety and nutritional status are put at risk. With age, the OE apparently becomes incapable of fully maintaining the neuronal population of the epithelium despite its well-known capacity for recovering from most forms of injury when younger which may contribute to age-related olfactory loss. Efforts to identify the mechanism by which olfactory neurogenesis becomes exhausted with age require a powerful model for accelerating age-related tissue pathology. The current OMP-tTA;TetO-DTA transgenic mouse model, in which olfactory neurons die when they reach maturity and accelerated death can be aborted to assess the capacity for structural recovery, satisfies that need.