• α2-receptors;
  • calcium channels;
  • granule cells;
  • mitral cells;
  • norepinephrine


Norepinephrine (NE) has various modulatory roles in both the peripheral and the central nervous systems. Here we investigate the function of the locus coeruleus efferent fibres in the olfactory bulb of Xenopus laevis tadpoles. In order to distinguish unambiguously between mitral cells and granule cells of the main olfactory bulb and the accessory olfactory bulb, we used a slice preparation. The two neuron types were distinguished on the basis of their location in the slice, their typical branching pattern and by electrophysiological criteria. At NE concentrations lower than 5 µm there was only one effect of NE upon voltage-gated conductances; NE blocked a high-voltage-activated Ca2+-current in mitral cells of both the main and the accessory olfactory bulbs. No such effect was observed in granule cells. The effect of NE upon mitral cell Ca2+-currents was mimicked by the α2-receptor agonists clonidine and α-methyl-NE. As a second effect, NE or clonidine blocked spontaneous synaptic activity in granule cells of both the main and the accessory olfactory bulbs. NE or clonidine also blocked the spontaneous synaptic activity in mitral cells of either olfactory bulb. The amplitude of glutamate-induced currents in granule cells was modulated neither by clonidine nor by α-methyl-NE. Taken together, the main effect of the noradrenergic, presynaptic, α2-receptor-mediated block of Ca2+-currents in mitral cells appeared to be a wide-spread disinhibition of mitral cells in the accessory olfactory bulb as well as in the main olfactory bulb.