The Journal of comparative neurology

Mitral cells in the olfactory bulb of adult zebrafish (Danio rerio): morphology and distribution.

PMID 16977629


The mitral cell is the primary output neuron and central relay in the olfactory bulb of vertebrates. The morphology of these cells has been studied extensively in mammalian systems and to a lesser degree in teleosts. This study uses retrograde tract tracing and other techniques to characterize the morphology and distribution of mitral cells in the olfactory bulb of adult zebrafish, Danio rerio. These output neurons, located primarily in the glomerular layer and superficial internal cell layer, had variable-shaped somata that ranged in size from 4-18 microm in diameter and 31-96 microm2 in cross-sectional area. The mitral cells exhibited two main types of morphologies with regard to their dendrites: the unidendritic morphology was a single primary dendrite with one or more tufts, but multidendritic cells with several dendritic projections also were seen. The axons of these cells projected to either the medial or the lateral olfactory tract and, in general, the location of the cell on the medial or lateral side of the bulb was indicative of the tract to which it would project. Further, this study shows that the majority of zebrafish mitral cells likely innervate a single glomerulus rather than multiple glomeruli. This information is contrary to the multiple innervation pattern suggested for all teleost mitral cells. Our findings suggest that mitral cells in zebrafish may be more similar to mammalian mitral cells than previously believed, despite variation in size and structure. This information provides a revised anatomical framework for olfactory processing studies in this key model system.