Reiten, I., Uslu, F.E., Fore, S., Pelgrims, R., Ringers, C., Diaz Verdugo, C., Hoffman, M., Lal, P., Kawakami, K., Pekkan, K., Yaksi, E., Jurisch-Yaksi, N. (2017) Motile-Cilia-Mediated Flow Improves Sensitivity and Temporal Resolution of Olfactory Computations. Current biology : CB. 27(2):166-174.
Motile cilia are actively beating hair-like structures that cover the surface of multiple epithelia. The flow that ciliary beating generates is utilized for diverse functions and depends on the spatial location and biophysical properties of cilia. Here we show that the motile cilia in the nose of aquatic vertebrates are spatially organized and stably beat with an asymmetric pattern, resulting in a robust and stereotypical flow around the nose. Our results demonstrate that these flow fields attract odors to the nose pit and facilitate detection of odors by the olfactory system in stagnant environments. Moreover, we show that ciliary beating quickly exchanges the content of the nose, thereby improving the temporal resolution of the olfactory system for detecting dynamic changes of odor plumes in turbulent environments. Altogether, our work unravels a central function of ciliary beating for generating flow fields that increase the sensitivity and the temporal resolution of olfactory computations in the vertebrate brain.