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Keywords:

  • central pattern generators;
  • interneurons;
  • locomotion;
  • motoneurons;
  • propriospinal

Abstract

Spinal neurons and networks that generate rhythmic locomotor activity remain incompletely defined, prompting the use of molecular biological strategies to label populations of neurons in the postnatal mouse. During spinal cord development, expression of Lhx3 in the absence of Isl1 specifies a V2 interneuronal fate. In this study, postnatal V2-derived interneurons were identified by yellow fluorescent protein (YFP) expression in the double-transgenic offspring of Lhx3Cre/+ × thy1-loxP-stop-loxP-YFP mice. While some motoneurons were labelled, several populations of interneurons predominantly located in lamina VII could also be distinguished. Small interneurons were located throughout the spinal cord whereas larger interneurons were concentrated in the lumbar enlargement. Some V2-derived interneurons were propriospinal, with axons that bifurcated in the lateral funiculus. V2-derived interneurons gave rise to populations of both excitatory and inhibitory interneurons in approximately equal proportions, as demonstrated by in situ hybridization with VGLUT2 mRNA. Immunohistochemical studies revealed YFP+ boutons throughout the spinal cord. Both glutamatergic and glycinergic YFP+ boutons were observed in lamina IX where many apposed motoneuron somata. GABAergic YFP+ boutons were also observed in lamina IX, and they did not form P-boutons. At P0, more than half of the YFP+ interneurons expressed Chx10 and thus were derived from the V2a subclass. In adult mice, there was an increase in Fos expression in V2-derived interneurons following locomotion, indicating that these neurons are active during this behaviour. The heterogeneity of V2-derived interneurons in adult mice indicates that physiologically distinct subpopulations, including last-order interneurons, arise from these embryonically defined neurons.