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Do frogs smell under water? The role of Na+-Ca2+ exchanger in amphibia olfactory receptor neurons

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Odors are primarily detected in the cilia of olfactory neurons. The process begins with the activation of an odorant receptor in the ciliary membrane, followed by synthesis of cAMP through activation of adenylyl cyclase. Ca2+ ions enter the cell through CNG channels causing depolarization of the membrane potential. The resulting Ca2+ concentration rise initiates an outward Ca2+activated Cl current which greatly amplifies the excitatory response. The response termination involves multiple feedback processes on the olfactory cascade but it is believed to be mainly dominated by a Na+-Ca2+ exchanger which extrudes the intracilliary Ca2+. Recently we found that the amphibian Na+-Ca2+ exchanger is able to functionally deal with large variations in external Na+, unlike the photoreceptor and cardiac exchangers in the same species. This mechanism might imply that frog olfactory neurons can be prepared to operate efficiently both under or outside water, processing both airborne and waterborne odorants.

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