Effects of H-reflex up-conditioning on GABAergic terminals on rat soleus motoneurons

Authors

  • Shreejith Pillai,

    1. Laboratory of Nervous System Disorders, Wadsworth Center, New York State Department of Health and State University of New York, Albany, NY 12201, USA
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  • Yu Wang,

    1. Laboratory of Nervous System Disorders, Wadsworth Center, New York State Department of Health and State University of New York, Albany, NY 12201, USA
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  • Jonathan R. Wolpaw,

    1. Laboratory of Nervous System Disorders, Wadsworth Center, New York State Department of Health and State University of New York, Albany, NY 12201, USA
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  • Xiang Yang Chen

    1. Laboratory of Nervous System Disorders, Wadsworth Center, New York State Department of Health and State University of New York, Albany, NY 12201, USA
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Dr Y. Wang, as above.
E-mail: ywang@wadsworth.org

Abstract

To explore the role of spinal cord plasticity in motor learning, we evaluated the effects of H-reflex operant conditioning on GABAergic input to rat spinal motoneurons. Previous work indicated that down-conditioning of soleus H-reflex increases GABAergic input to soleus motoneurons. This study explored the effect of H-reflex up-conditioning on GABAergic input. Of nine rats exposed to H-reflex up-conditioning, up-conditioning was successful (H-reflex increase ≥ 20%) in seven and failed (change < 20%) in two. These rats and eight naive control (i.e. unconditioned) rats were injected with cholera toxin subunit B-conjugated Alexa fluor 488 into the soleus muscle to retrogradely label soleus motoneurons. Sections containing soleus motoneurons were processed for GAD67 [one of the two principal forms of the GABA-synthesizing enzyme glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD)] with an ABC-peroxidase system. Two blinded independent raters counted and measured GABAergic terminals on these motoneurons. Unlike successful down-conditioning, which greatly increased the number of identifiable GABAergic terminals on the motoneurons, up-conditioning did not significantly change GABAergic terminal number. Successful up-conditioning did produce slight but statistically significant increases in GABAergic terminal diameter and soma coverage. These results are consistent with other data indicating that up- and down-conditioning are not mirror images of each other, but rather have different mechanisms. Although the marked changes in GABAergic terminals with down-conditioning probably contribute to H-reflex decrease, the modest changes in GABAergic terminals associated with up-conditioning may be compensatory or reactive plasticity, rather than the plasticity responsible for H-reflex increase. As a variety of spinal and supraspinal GABAergic neurons innervate motoneurons, the changes found with up-conditioning may be in terminals other than those affected in successful down-conditioning.

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