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J Physiol October 15, 2009; 587 (Pt 20): 4829-44.
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Defining the excitatory neurons that drive the locomotor rhythm in a simple vertebrate: insights into the origin of reticulospinal control.

Important questions remain about the origin of the excitation that drives locomotion in vertebrates and the roles played by reticulospinal neurons. In young Xenopus tadpoles, paired whole-cell recordings reveal reticulospinal neurons that directly excite swimming circuit neurons in the brainstem and spinal cord. They form part of a column of neurons (dINs) with ipsilateral descending projections which fire reliably and rhythmically in time with swimming. We ask if, at this early stage of development, these reticulospinal neurons are themselves the primary source of rhythmic drive to spinal cord neurons on each cycle of swimming. Loose-patch recordings in the hindbrain and spinal cord from neurons active during fictive swimming distinguished dINs from other neurons by spike shape. These recordings showed that reticulospinal dINs in the caudal hindbrain (rhombomeres 7-8) fire significantly earlier on each swimming cycle than other, ipsilateral, swimming circuit neurons. Whole-cell recordings showed that fast EPSCs typically precede, and probably drive, spikes in most swimming circuit neurons. However, the earliest-firing reticulospinal dINs spike too soon to be driven by underlying fast EPSCs. We propose that rebound following reciprocal inhibition can contribute to early reticulospinal dIN firing during swimming and show rebound firing in dINs following evoked, reciprocal inhibitory PSPs. Our results define reticulospinal neurons that are the source of the primary, descending, rhythmic excitation that drives spinal cord neurons to fire during swimming. These neurons are an integral part of the rhythm generating circuitry. We discuss the origin of these reticulospinal neurons as specialised members of a longitudinally distributed population of excitatory interneurons extending from the brainstem into the spinal cord.

PubMed ID: 19703959
PMC ID: PMC2770150
Article link: J Physiol
Grant support: [+]

Species referenced: Xenopus laevis
Genes referenced: mn1

Article Images: [+] show captions
References [+] :
Al-Mosawie, Heterogeneity of V2-derived interneurons in the adult mouse spinal cord. 2007, Pubmed