Outgrowing olfactory axons contain the Reelin receptor VLDLR and navigate through the Reelin-rich cribriform mesenchyme. uri icon


  • Chemosensory neurons in the olfactory epithelium (OE) project axonal processes to the olfactory bulb (OB) of the brain. During embryonic stages, on their trajectory to the OB, the outgrowing axons traverse the so-called cribriform mesenchyme, which is located between the OE and the OB. The molecular cues guiding these axons through the cribriform mesenchyme are largely unknown. To identify molecules influencing the axonal trajectory in the murine cribriform mesenchyme, we performed microarray analyses focusing on extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins present in this tissue. Thereby, the ECM protein Reelin turned out to be an interesting candidate. Reelin was found to be expressed by numerous cells in the cribriform mesenchyme during the embryonic stages when the first axons navigate from the OE to the OB. These cells were closely associated with olfactory axons and apparently lack glial and neuronal markers. In the mesenchyme underlying the OE, localization of the Reelin protein was not confined to the Reelin-expressing cells, but it was also observed to be widely distributed in the ECM-most prominently in regions traversed by olfactory axons. Importantly, these axons were found to be endowed with the Reelin receptor very-low-density lipoprotein receptor (VLDLR). Finally, Reelin expression was also detectable in neuronal cells of the OB, which are contacted by VLDLR-positive olfactory axons. In summary, the results of the present study suggest that a Reelin/VLDLR signaling pathway might contribute to the formation of olfactory projections to the OB and the establishment of initial contacts between the incoming axons and neurons in the OB.

publication date

  • September 2009