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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

TRPM5-expressing microvillous cells in the main olfactory epithelium

Weihong Lin13*, Ejiofor AD Ezekwe1, Zhen Zhao2, Emily R Liman2 and Diego Restrepo3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biological Sciences, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Baltimore, MD 21250, USA

2 Neuroscience Graduate Program and Department of Biological Sciences, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California 90089, USA

3 Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, the Neuroscience Program, and Rocky Mountain Taste and Smell Center, University of Colorado Denver Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, CO 80045, USA

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BMC Neuroscience 2008, 9:114  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-9-114

Published: 24 November 2008



The main olfactory epithelium (MOE) in the nasal cavity detects a variety of air borne molecules that provide information regarding the presence of food, predators and other relevant social and environmental factors. Within the epithelium are ciliated sensory neurons, supporting cells, basal cells and microvillous cells, each of which is distinct in morphology and function. Arguably, the least understood, are the microvillous cells, a population of cells that are small in number and whose function is not known. We previously found that in a mouse strain in which the TRPM5 promoter drives expression of the green fluorescent protein (GFP), a population of ciliated olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs), as well as a population of cells displaying microvilli-like structures is labeled. Here we examined the morphology and immunocytochemical properties of these microvillous-like cells using immunocytochemical methods.


We show that the GFP-positive microvillous cells were morphologically diversified and scattered throughout the entire MOE. These cells immunoreacted to an antibody against TRPM5, confirming the expression of this ion channel in these cells. In addition, they showed a Ca2+-activated non-selective cation current in electrophysiological recordings. They did not immunoreact to antibodies that label cell markers and elements of the transduction pathways from olfactory sensory neurons and solitary chemosensory cells of the nasal cavity. Further, the TRPM5-expressing cells did not display axon-like processes and were not labeled with a neuronal marker nor did trigeminal peptidergic nerve fibers innervate these cells.


We provide morphological and immunocytochemical characterization of the TRPM5-expressing microvillous cells in the main olfactory epithelium. Our data demonstrate that these cells are non-neuronal and in terms of chemosensory transduction do not resemble the TRPM5-expressing olfactory sensory neurons and nasal solitary chemosensory cells.