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Keywords:

  • depolarization wave;
  • development;
  • optical recording;
  • spontaneous activity;
  • voltage-sensitive dye

Abstract

Spontaneous embryonic movements, called embryonic motility, are produced by correlated spontaneous activity in the cranial and spinal nerves, which is driven by brainstem and spinal networks. Using optical imaging with a voltage-sensitive dye, we have revealed previously that this correlated activity is a widely propagating wave of neural depolarization, which we termed the depolarization wave. We have observed in the chick and rat embryos that the activity spread over an extensive region of the CNS, including the spinal cord, hindbrain, cerebellum, midbrain and forebrain. One important consideration is whether a depolarization wave with similar characteristics occurs in other species, especially in different mammals. Here, we provide evidence for the existence of the depolarization wave in the mouse embryo by showing that the widely propagating wave appeared independently of the localized spontaneous activity detected previously with Ca2+ imaging. Furthermore, we mapped the origin of the depolarization wave and revealed that the wave generator moved from the rostral spinal cord to the caudal cord as development proceeded, and was later replaced with mature rhythmogenerators. The present study, together with an accompanying paper that describes pharmacological properties of the mouse depolarization wave, shows that a synchronized wave with common characteristics is expressed in different species, suggesting fundamental roles in neural development.