Department of Genetics and Evolution and National Research Center Frontiers in Genetics, University of Geneva, 1211 Geneva 4, Switzerland.
The Grueneberg ganglion is a specialized olfactory sensor. In mice, its activation induces freezing behavior. The topographical map corresponding to the central projections of its sensory axons is poorly defined, as well as the guidance molecules involved in its establishment. We took a transgenic approach to label exclusively Grueneberg sensory neurons and their axonal projections. We observed that a stereotyped convergence map in a series of coalescent neuropil-rich structures is already present at birth. These structures are part of a peculiar and complex neuronal circuit, composed of a chain of glomeruli organized in a necklace pattern that entirely surrounds the trunk of the olfactory bulb. We found that the necklace chain is composed of two different sets of glomeruli: one exclusively innervated by Grueneberg ganglion neurons, the other by axonal inputs from the main olfactory neuroepithelium. Combining the transgenic Grueneberg reporter mouse with a conditional null genetic approach, we then show that the axonal wiring of Grueneberg neurons is dependent on neuropilin 1 expression. Neuropilin 1-deficient Grueneberg axonal projections lose their strict and characteristic avoidance of vomeronasal glomeruli, glomeruli that are innervated by secondary neurons expressing the repulsive guidance cue and main neuropilin 1 ligand Sema3a. Taken together, our observations represent a first step in the understanding of the circuitry and the coding strategy used by the Grueneberg system.