Cellular and Molecular Biology


Expression and distribution of the intermediate filament protein nestin and other stem cell related molecules in the human olfactory epithelium

Amir Minovi1, Martin Witt2,3, Andreas Prescher4, Volker Gudziol2, Stefan Dazert1, Hanns Hatt5 and Heike Benecke5

1Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Head- and Neck Surgery, Ruhr-University Bochum, St. Elisabeth Hospital, Bochum, Germany, 2Smell and Taste Clinic, Department of Otorhinolaryngology, University of Dresden, Medical School, Dresden, Germany, 3Department of Anatomy, University of Rostock, Rostock, Germany, 4Department of Molecular and Cellular Anatomy, RWTH Aachen, Germany and 5Department of Cell Physiology, Ruhr-University Bochum, Bochum, Germany.

Offprint requests to: Amir Minovi, MD, Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Head-and Neck Surgery, Ruhr-University Bochum, St. Elisabeth Hospital, Bleichstr. 15, 44787 Bochum, Germany. e-mail: amir.minovi@rub.de

Summary. The olfactory epithelium (OE) is unique in regenerating throughout life and thus is an attractive target for examining neurogenesis. The nestin protein was shown to be expressed in the OE of rodents and is suggested to be essentially involved in the process of regeneration. Here we report the expression and distribution of nestin in the human OE at RNA and protein level. Moreover, we analysed the expression profiles in dependence on age and olfactory capacity. After sinus surgery, biopsies were taken from the olfactory epithelium of 16 patients aged 20-80 years with documented differences in their olfactory function. Our studies revealed that nestin is constantly detectable in the apical protuberances of sustentacular cells within the human OE of healthy adults. Its expression is not dependent on age, but rather appears to be related to the olfactory function, as a comparison with specimens obtained from patients suffering either from persistent anosmia or hyposmia suggests. Particularly, in the course of dystrophy, often accompanied with impaired olfaction, nestin expression was occasionally decreased. Contrarily, the expression of the p75-NGFR protein, a marker for human OE basal cells, was not altered, indicating that at least in the tested samples olfactory impairment is not connected with abnormalities at the basal cell level. These observations emphasize an essential role of nestin for the process of regeneration, and also highlight this factor as a candidate marker for sustentacular cells in the human olfactory epithelium
. Histol Histopathol 25, 177-187 (2010)

Key words: Human olfactory epithelium, Nestin, Sustentacular cells, Immunohistochemistry