• calcium imaging;
  • calnexin immunoreactivity;
  • d-TMR backfill;
  • odorants;
  • slice preparation


Nucleotides and amino acids are acknowledged categories of water-borne olfactory stimuli. In previous studies it has been shown that larvae of Xenopus laevis are able to sense amino acids. Here we report on the effect of ATP in the olfactory epithelium (OE) of Xenopus laevis tadpoles. First, ATP activates a subpopulation of cells in the OE. The ATP-sensitive subset of cells is almost perfectly disjoint from the subset of amino acid-activated cells. Both responses are not mediated by the well-described cAMP transduction pathway as the two subpopulations of cells do not overlap with a third, forskolin-activated subpopulation. We further show that, in contrast to amino acids, which act exclusively as olfactory stimuli, ATP appears to feature a second role. Surprisingly it activated a large number of sustentacular supporting cells (SCs) and, to a much lower extent, olfactory receptor neurons. The cells of the amino acid- and ATP-responding subsets featured differences in shape, size and position in the OE. The latencies to activation upon stimulus application differed markedly in these subsets. To obtain these results two technical points were important. We used a novel dextran-tetramethylrhodamine-backfilled slice preparation of the OE and we found out that an antibody to calnexin, a known molecular chaperone, also labels SCs. Our findings thus show a strong effect of ATP in the OE and we discuss some of the possible physiological functions of nucleotides in the OE.