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A three-compartment conductance-based model of the rat olfactory receptor neuron

Reduced compartmental models of single neurons, i.e. models with few Hodgkin-Huxley (HH) type compartments, provide an interesting balance between highly detailed, morphologically realistic models, and abstract, point-like models [1]. Simões-de-Souza and Roque [2] constructed a four-compartment model of the vertebrate olfactory receptor neuron (ORN), which was used in a large-scale simulation of the olfactory system [3]. Their model contains a biochemical compartment, which allows the study of the role of molecular pathways in odor representation. However, the use of this compartment slows down computer simulations of models with many receptor cells and makes the analysis of network behavior more complicated – because of the large number of variables and parameters. In this work, we present a simpler ORN model which does not include biochemical pathways and contains only three HH type compartments. Our model is different from [2] not only because it has one compartment less but also because its passive and active parameters have new values adjusted by a combination of “hand-fitting” with automatic fitting procedures so as to reproduce well experimental results for the rat [5]. The model was constructed in GENESIS [4]. Its three compartments kept the same names used in [2]: soma, dendrite and dendritic knob. The latter two are passive compartments while soma has four voltage-gated ionic currents: high-voltage-activated calcium current, fast voltage- and calcium-dependent potassium current, slow calcium-dependent potassium current, and delayed rectifier potassium current. These ionic currents were modeled according to the standard HH formalism with kinetic parameters adjusted as mentioned above. Input stimuli were constant current steps injected directly in dendritic knob to simulate experimental results [5]. Some simulation results are shown in Figure 1. Our reduced three-compartment model may allow faster and more efficient large-scale network simulations of the rat olfactory system.

Figure 1
figure 1

Some simulation results. A. Spike train generated by a 10 pA step current (to be compared with Figure 2B of [5]); B. Action potential (to be compared with the inset of Figure 2A of [5]).


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TMCCS was supported by a FAPESP scholarship and ACR is supported by a research grant from CNPq.

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Correspondence to Tiago MC Castro e Silva.

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Open Access This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Castro e Silva, T.M., Roque, A.C. A three-compartment conductance-based model of the rat olfactory receptor neuron. BMC Neurosci 11 (Suppl 1), P130 (2010).

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  • Olfactory System
  • Olfactory Receptor Neuron
  • Rectifier Potassium Current
  • Delay Rectifier Potassium Current
  • Odor Representation