Olfactory neurons in vitro show phenotypic orientation in epithelial spheres

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PRODUCTION and differentiation of olfactory neurons occur in spherical, multi-neuronal aggregates that form in cultures where dissociated newborn rat nasal cells are plated on to CNS glial cells. We show here that neuronal cell bodies were primarily located in the peripheral layers of the spheres, and almost every neuronal sphere contained one or several non-cellular central cavities. The dendrite-like processes of the olfactory neurons, immunostained for neuron-specific tubulin or the olfactory marker protein, were aligned and directed towards the central cavities. Olfactory neurons in the intact animal show a similar relationship with the nasal lumen. Non-neuronal cells formed multiple layers centrally, bordering the cavities. This degree of phenotypic re-creation is unusual in a dissociated monolayer culture system.

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