The aging olfactory epithelium

Neurogenesis, response to damage, and odorant-induced activity

Alice T. Loo, Steven Youngentob, Paul F. Kent, James E. Schwob

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

108 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Olfactory epithelium retains the capacity to recover anatomically after damage well into adult life and perhaps throughout its duration. None the less, olfactory dysfunctions have been reported widely for elderly humans. The present study investigates the effects of aging on the neurophysiological and anatomical status of the olfactory epithelium in barrier-raised Fischer 344X Brown Norway F1 hybrid rats at 7, 10, 25 and 32/35 months old. The posterior part of the olfactory epithelium in 32/35-month-old rats is well preserved. Globose basal cells are dividing, and new neurons are being born even at this advanced age. None the less, the numbers of proliferating basal cells and immature, GAP-43 (+) neurons are significantly decreased. Neurophysiological status was evaluated using voltage-sensitive dye techniques to assess inherent patterns of odorant-induced activity in the epithelium lining the septum and the medial surface of the turbinates. In middle and posterior zones of the epithelium, there were neither age-related changes in overall responsivity of this part of the olfactory epithelium to any of five odorants, nor shifts in the location of the odorant-induced hotspots. The inherent activity patterns elicited by the different odorants do become more distinct as a function of age, which probably reflects the decline in immature neurons and a slight, but not statistically significant, increase in mature neurons as a function of age. In contrast with the excellent preservation of posterior epithelium, the epithelium lining the anterodorsal septum and the corresponding face of the turbinates is damaged in the 32/35-month-old animals: in this part, horizontal basal cells are reactive, more basal cells and sustentacular cells are proliferating than in younger animals or in posterior epithelium of the same animals, and the neuronal population is less mature on average. Our findings indicate that degeneration of the olfactory epithelium is not an inevitable or preprogrammed consequence of the aging process, since the posterior zone of the epithelium is very well preserved in these barrier-protected animals. However, the deterioration in the anterior epithelium suggests that environmental insults can accumulate or become more severe with age and overwhelm the regenerative capacity of the epithelium. Alternatively, the regenerative capacity of the epithelium may wane somewhat with age. Either of these mechanisms or some combination of them can account for the functional and anatomical deterioration of the sense of smell associated with senescence in humans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)881-900
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Journal of Developmental Neuroscience
Volume14
Issue number7-8
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 1 1996

Fingerprint

Olfactory Mucosa
Neurogenesis
Epithelium
Neurons
Turbinates
GAP-43 Protein
Odorants
Smell
Norway
Coloring Agents

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Developmental Biology

Cite this

The aging olfactory epithelium : Neurogenesis, response to damage, and odorant-induced activity. / Loo, Alice T.; Youngentob, Steven; Kent, Paul F.; Schwob, James E.

In: International Journal of Developmental Neuroscience, Vol. 14, No. 7-8, 01.11.1996, p. 881-900.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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