In vivo electrophysiological recordings from populations of olfactory receptor neurons in the channel catfish, Ictalurus punctatus, clearly showed that both electro-olfactogram and integrated neural responses of olfactory receptor cells to complex mixtures consisting of up to 10 different amino acids were predictable with knowledge of (a) the responses to the individual components in the mixture and (b) the relative independence of the respective receptor sites for the component stimuli. All amino acid stimuli used to form the various mixtures were initially adjusted in concentration to provide approximately equal response magnitudes. Olfactory receptor responses to both multimixtures and binary mixtures were recorded. Multimixtures were formed by mixing equal aliquots of 3-10 different amino acids. Binary mixtures were formed by mixing equal aliquots of two equally stimulatory solutions. Solution 1 contained either one to nine different neutral amino acids with long side-chains (LCNs) or one to five different neutral amino acids with short side-chains (SCNs). Solution 2, comprising the binary mixture, consisted of only a single stimulus, either a LCN, SCN, basic, or acidic amino acid. The increasing magnitude of the olfactory receptor responses to mixtures consisting of an increasing number of neutral amino acids indicated that multiple receptor site types with highly overlapping specificities exist to these compounds. For both binary mixtures and multimixtures composed of neutral and basic or neutral and acidic amino acids, the receptor responses were significantly enhanced compared with those mixtures consisting of an equal number of only neutral amino acids. These results demonstrate that receptor sites for the basic and acidic amino acids, respectively, are highly independent of those for the neutral amino acids, and suggest that a mechanism for synergism is the simultaneous activation of relatively independent receptor sites by the components in the mixture. In contrast, there was no evidence for the occurrence of mixture suppression.

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