Olfactory perception is influenced by hormones. Here we report that adrenaline can directly affect the signal encoding of olfactory receptor cells. Application of adrenaline suppressed action potentials near threshold and increased their frequency in response to strong stimuli, resulting in a narrower dynamic range. Under voltage-clamp conditions, adrenaline enhanced sodium current and reduced T-type calcium current. Because sodium current is the major component of spike generation and T-type calcium current lowers the threshold in olfactory receptor cells, the effects of adrenaline on these currents are consistent with the results obtained under current-clamp conditions. Both effects involved a common cytoplasmic pathway, cAMP- dependent phosphorylation. We suggest that adrenaline may enhance contrast in olfactory perception by this mechanism.
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