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Olfactory and solitary chemosensory cells: two different chemosensory systems in the nasal cavity of the American alligator, Alligator mississippiensis

DOI: 10.1186/1471-2202-8-64

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Electron microscopy and immunocytochemistry were used to examine the sensory epithelium of the nasal cavity of the American alligator. Almost the entire nasal cavity is lined with olfactory (sensory) epithelium. Two types of olfactory sensory neurons are present. Both types bear cilia as well as microvilli at their apical endings and express the typical markers for olfactory neurons. The density of these olfactory neurons varies along the nasal cavity. In addition, solitary chemosensory cells innervated by trigeminal nerve fibres, are intermingled with olfactory sensory neurons. Solitary chemosensory cells express components of the PLC-transduction cascade found in solitary chemosensory cells in rodents.The nasal cavity of the American alligator contains two different chemosensory systems incorporated in the same sensory epithelium: the olfactory system proper and solitary chemosensory cells. The olfactory system contains two morphological distinct types of ciliated olfactory receptor neurons.The nasal cavity of all vertebrates houses multiple chemosensors. The olfactory and the vomeronasal receptors detect a variety of odours including food-related and social signals. In addition, chemically-sensitive free nerve endings of the trigeminal nerve and trigeminally innervated chemosensors that respond to irritants have been reported for some vertebrate species. The chemosensors are expressed in various cell types. In mammals, the olfactory system contains ciliated and microvillous olfactory receptor neurons (OSNs). In many mammals these neurons are segregated in two compartments: ciliated OSNs are housed in the main olfactory epithelium detecting chemicals related mostly to food and microvillous OSNs in the so-called vomeronasal organ (VNO) detecting mostly (but not limited to) social cues [1]. Fish olfactory epithelium also contains ciliated and microvillous OSNs [2], but here both cell types are intermingled in one olfactory epithelium since fish do not have a VNO. In


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