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Stomatin-like protein-3 (STOML3) is an integral membrane protein expressed in the cilia of olfactory sensory neurons, but its functional role in this cell type has never been addressed. STOML3 is also expressed in dorsal root ganglia neurons, where it has been shown to be required for normal touch sensation. Here, we extended previous results indicating that STOML3 is mainly expressed in the knob and proximal cilia of olfactory sensory neurons. We additionally showed that mice lacking STOML3 have a morphologically normal olfactory epithelium. Due to its presence in the cilia, together with known olfactory transduction components, we hypothesized that STOML3 could be involved in modulating odorant responses in olfactory sensory neurons. To investigate the functional role of STOML3, we performed loose patch recordings from wild type and Stoml3 KO olfactory sensory neurons. We found that spontaneous mean firing activity was lower with additional shift in interspike intervals distributions in Stoml3 KOs compared to wild type neurons. Moreover, the firing activity in response to stimuli was reduced both in spike number and duration in neurons lacking STOML3 compared to wildtype neurons. Control experiments suggested that the primary deficit in neurons lacking STOML3 was at the level of transduction and not at the level of action potential generation. We conclude that STOML3 has a physiological role in olfaction, being required for normal sensory encoding by olfactory sensory neurons.Significance Statement Olfactory transduction comprises a series of well-characterized molecular steps that take place in the cilia of olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs) terminating in action potential firing. Here, we introduce a possible new player: stomatin-like protein 3 (STOML3). Indeed, STOML3 is localized in olfactory cilia, and we show that STOML3 plays a role in OSN physiology. First, it allows OSNs to broaden the possible frequency range of their spontaneous activity. Second, STOML3 modulates odorant-evoked action potential firing by regulating both the number of spikes and response duration. These new findings call for a reconsideration of the patterns of the peripheral coding of sensory stimuli.

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Ion channel, Olfactory, Transduction