In mammals, odorant receptors (ORs) direct the axons of olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs) toward targets in the olfactory bulb. We show that cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) signals that regulate the expression of axon guidance molecules are essential for the OR-instructed axonal projection. Genetic manipulations of ORs, stimulatory G protein, cAMP-dependent protein kinase, and cAMP response element-binding protein shifted the axonal projection sites along the anterior-posterior axis in the olfactory bulb. Thus, it is the OR-derived cAMP signals, rather than direct action of OR molecules, that determine the target destinations of OSNs.
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