Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Nasal Supply Chains

Newly discovered protein transport system in the nasal passage in response to smells

04 March 2023

Nasal Supply Chains

COVID-19 and geopolitics have disrupted supply chains, leading to global food, fuel, and medicine shortages. Our sense of smell also relies on a supply chain: our olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs) have to move proteins huge distances along themselves to detect smelly molecules. Here, we see OSNs from a mouse with one blocked (upper half) and one unblocked (lower half) nostril. By studying these mice with advanced microscopy, researchers showed that OSNs gather smell-detecting proteins in bubbles of membrane before wrapping the bubbles in a larger membrane – like a bag of frogspawn. These multivesicular transducosomes (MVTs), discovered for the first time, help transport the proteins needed to detect smells along OSNs. In mice, MVTs accumulate in OSNs lining blocked nostrils, but release their cargo when smells are detected in an unblocked nostril. Understanding more about this process could help us treat the loss of smell caused by conditions like COVID-19.

Written by Henry Stennett

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