This study used transgenic mice, in which expression of a bacterial nitroreductase (ntr) gene was linked to the expression of olfactory marker protein (OMP). The nitroreductase enzyme is thus expressed in mature chemosensory neurons of these OMP-ntr transgenic mice, and converts the pro-drug CB1954 to a cytotoxic form, specifically killing these neurons. Systemic injections of the pro-drug led to the ablation of receptor neurons in both the main olfactory and vomeronasal epithelia. Due to the anatomical separation of the epithelia, however, when the pro-drug was administered by intranasal infusion only the receptors of the main olfactory epithelium were destroyed. This procedure resulted in a profound deficit in olfactory investigation and discrimination in a habituation-dishabituation test, whereas the pregnancy blocking effect of male pheromones, which is mediated via the vomeronasal system was unaffected. OMP-ntr mice receiving intranasal infusion of pro-drug had not recovered any significant main olfactory function at 24 days following treatment. This novel technique could potentially be applied to selectively ablate olfactory receptor neurons expressing a particular olfactory receptor by linking its expression to that of the nitroreductase enzyme.
- Olfactory epithelium
- Vomeronasal organ