Functional differentiation and organization of feline midlumbar commissural interneurones


Corresponding author E. Jankowska: Dept of Physiology, Medicinaregatan 11, Box 432, 405 30 Göteborg, Sweden. Email:


Interneurones interconnecting the two sides of the spinal cord (commissural interneurones) are critically important for interlimb coordination, but little is known about their organization. We have examined the inputs to commissural interneurones located in the midlumbar segments with projections to contralateral motor nuclei, aiming to determine whether they form distinct subpopulations. Based on intracellular records from 78 interneurones, two major non-overlapping subpopulations were identified: one monosynaptically excited by group II muscle afferents (n= 10), the other monosynaptically excited by reticulospinal neurones (n= 52). Monosynaptic input from group I muscle afferents and/or from vestibulospinal tract neurones was found in those with monosynaptic reticulospinal, but not group II input, and in a few other neurones (n= 6). Only disynaptic input from these sources was found in the remaining 10 interneurones. Disynaptic excitatory input from ipsilateral and contralateral muscle afferents and from descending tracts was distributed less selectively and might mediate coexcitation of interneurones with monosynaptic afferent or descending input. The dominant disynaptic and polysynaptic input was, however, inhibitory. IPSPs were evoked from the descending tracts in a high proportion of the commissural interneurones that were monosynaptically excited by group II afferents (55%) and from group II afferents in a high proportion of the commissural interneurones that were monosynaptically excited by reticulospinal fibres (78%). This distribution suggests that the two subpopulations are activated differentially, rather than being coactivated, in either centrally initiated movements or reflex adjustments. This would be consistent with the previous demonstration that noradrenaline differentially affects commissural neurones of the two subpopulations.