Experiments were conducted to examine by light and electron microscopy the localization of acetylcholinesterase (AChE) in the main (MOB) and accessory (AOB) olfactory bulbs of the normal mouse. Evidence from the literature for cholinergic innervation of the mammalian olfactory bulb was then assessed in light of possible correlation between reported sites of termination of centrifugal fibers to the olfactory bulb and the localization of AChE. AChE‐positive nerve fibers were concentrated in the periglomerular region and internal plexiform layer of the MOB. Stained fibers were also present in the granule cell, mitral cell, and external plexiform layers as well as within glomeruli. A few neurons in all layers of the MOB contained AChE reaction product. Unlike the MOB, AChE‐positive fibers were not present in the glomerular layer of the AOB. AChE‐positive fibers were concentrated in the inner plexiform layer, whereas fewer stained fibers were observed in the external plexiform and mitral cell layer and granule cell layer. Lightly stained neurons were found in the deeper portions of the external plexiform and mitral cell layer and granule cell layer. Ultrastructurally, AChE reaction product in the MOB and AOB was predominantly associated with small unmyelinated axons. Reaction product was also observed adjacent to axon terminals and dendrites. Occasionally within the MOB, AChE activity was found within periglomerular, tufted, short‐axon, mitral, and granule cells. In the AOB, however, intracellular AChE activity was observed within some mitral/tufted cells and only a few granule cells. In conclusion, the AChE reaction product was mainly associated with axons in regions of the MOB where centrifugal fibers have been reported. Accessory olfactory bulb AChE localization was different from that of the MOB, suggesting a different pattern of cholinergic input to the AOB. The small amounts and sites of intraneuronal AChE reaction product in cells of the olfactory bulb indicate cholinoceptive rather than cholinergic function.
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