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Keywords:

  • C terminal;
  • motor control;
  • neuromodulation;
  • spinal cord

Abstract

Motor control circuitry of the central nervous system must be flexible so that motor behaviours can be adapted to suit the varying demands of different states, developmental stages, and environments. Flexibility in motor control is largely provided by neuromodulatory systems which can adjust the output of motor circuits by modulating the properties and connectivity of neurons within them. The spinal circuitry which controls locomotion is subject to a range of neuromodulatory influences, including some which are intrinsic to the spinal cord. One such intrinsic neuromodulatory system, for which a wealth of anatomical information has recently been combined with new physiological data, is the C bouton system. C boutons are large, cholinergic inputs to motor neurons which were first described over 40 years ago but whose source and function have until recently remained a mystery. In this review we discuss how the convergence of anatomical, molecular genetic and physiological data has recently led to significant advances in our understanding of this unique neuromodulatory system. We also highlight evidence that C boutons are involved in spinal cord injury and disease, revealing their potential as targets for novel therapeutic strategies.