Calcium-activated chloride current amplifies the response to urine in mouse vomeronasal sensory neurons

C Yang and R. J. Delay

The Journal of General Physiology, 2010, 135(1), 3-13. DOI: 10.1085/jgp.200910265


The vomeronasal organ (VNO) is an odor detection system that mediates many pheromone-sensitive behaviors. Vomeronasal sensory neurons (VSNs), located in the VNO, are the initial site of interaction with odors/pheromones. However, how an individual VSN transduces chemical signals into electrical signals is still unresolved. Here, we show that a Ca2+-activated Cl current contributes ~80% of the response to urine in mouse VSNs. Using perforated patch clamp recordings with gramicidin, which leaves intracellular chloride undisrupted, we found that the urine-induced inward current (Vhold = –80 mV) was decreased in the presence of chloride channel blockers. This was confirmed using whole cell recordings and altering extracellular chloride to shift the reversal potential. Further, the urine-induced currents were eliminated when both extracellular Ca2+ and Na+ were removed. Using inside-out patches from dendritic tips, we recorded Ca2+-activated Cl channel activity. Several candidates for this Ca2+-activated Cl channel were detected in VNO by reverse transcription–polymerase chain reaction. In addition, a chloride cotransporter, Na+-K+-2Cl isoform 1, was detected and found to mediate much of the chloride accumulation in VSNs. Collectively, our data demonstrate that chloride acts as a major amplifier for signal transduction in mouse VSNs. This amplification would increase the responsiveness to pheromones or odorants.

ASCI-ID: 1328-66