In the olfactory bulb, apoptotic cell-death induced by sensory deprivation is restricted to interneurons in the glomerular and granule cell layers, and to a lesser extent in the external plexiform layer, whereas mitral cells do not typically undergo apoptosis. With the goal to understand whether brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) mediates mitral cell survival, we performed unilateral naris occlusion on mice at postnatal day one (P1) and examined the subsequent BDNF-immunoreactive (BDNF-ir) profile of the olfactory bulb at P20, P30, and P40. Ipsilateral to the naris occlusion, there was a significant increase in the number of BDNF-ir mitral cells per unit area that was independent of the duration of the sensory deprivation induced by occlusion. The number of BDNF-ir juxtaglomerular cells per unit area, however, was clearly diminished. Western blot analysis revealed the presence of primarily proBDNF in the olfactory bulb. These data provide evidence for a neurotrophic role of proBDNF in the olfactory system of mice and suggest that proBDNF may act to protect mitral cells from the effects of apoptotic changes induced by odor sensory deprivation.
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