Signaling by olfactory receptor neurons near threshold

Vikas Bhandawat, Johannes Reisert, King Wai Yau

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


An important contributing factor for the high sensitivity of sensory systems is the exquisite sensitivity of the sensory receptor cells. We report here the signaling threshold of the olfactory receptor neuron (ORN). We first obtained a best estimate of the size of the physiological electrical response successfully triggered by a single odorant-binding event on a frog ORN, which was ∼0.034 pA and had an associated transduction domain spanning only a tiny fraction of the length of an ORN cilium. We also estimated the receptor-current threshold for an ORN to fire action potentials in response to an odorant pulse, which was ∼1.2 pA. Thus, it takes about 35 odorant-binding events successfully triggering transduction during a brief odorant pulse in order for an ORN to signal to the brain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)18682-18687
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number43
StatePublished - Oct 26 2010


  • Olfaction
  • Olfactory transduction
  • Sensory transduction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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