What were the major contributions of Linda Buck to neuroscience?

Answer: Linda Buck, along with Richard Axel, were the first to characterize the olfactory G-protein coupled receptor in 1991.

Linda Buck olfactory receptor neuroscience

Linda Buck is best known for her molecular and genetics-based research into understanding the proteins that allow an organism to detect odors in the surrounding environment. The receptors are expressed in the nasal epithelium. The cells then send their axons via the olfactory nerve into the brain, some projections passing directly into the cortex while other connections pass through the thalamus.

Linda Buck completed her postdoctoral training at Columbia University in an immunology laboratory. Afterwards, she remained at Columbia to work in the lab of Richard Axel, and it was in this lab where her main research into olfactory receptors was completed. Their initial paper describing their findings, A novel multigene family may encode odorant receptors: a molecular basis for odor recognition, was originally published in the journal Cell. The joint Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their work was awarded in 2004.

There are thousands of different genes that are responsible for encoding olfactory receptors. Interestingly, Linda Buck and Richard Axel also discovered that each olfactory receptor neuron in the epithelium of the nose expresses only one single type of olfactory receptor. Furthermore, when these neurons send axons into the olfactory bulb, they organize into a semi-patterned bunch of cells called a glomerulus. Each glomerulus collects the axons from cells of a single type of olfactory receptor cell.