by Daniel Nunes, Thomas Kuner

Dendrodendritic synaptic interactions between olfactory bulb mitral and granule cells represent a key neuronal mechanism of odor discrimination. Dendritic release of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) from granule cells contributes to stimulus-dependent, rapid, and accurate odor discrimination, yet the physiological mechanisms governing this release and its behavioral relevance are unknown. Here, we show that granule cells express the voltage-gated sodium channel α-subunit NaV1.2 in clusters distributed throughout the cell surface including dendritic spines. Deletion of NaV1.2 in granule cells abolished spiking and GABA release as well as inhibition of synaptically connected mitral cells (MCs). As a consequence, mice required more time to discriminate highly similar odorant mixtures, while odor discrimination learning remained unaffected. In conclusion, we show that expression of NaV1.2 in granule cells is crucial for physiological dendritic GABA release and rapid discrimination of similar odorants with high accuracy. Hence, our data indicate that neurotransmitter-releasing dendritic spines function just like axon terminals.

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