Neural Control of Movement : Motor Neuron Subtypes, Proprioception and Recurrent Inhibition

Sammanfattning: Movement is central for life, and all animals depend on accurate regulation of movement for purposeful behavior. There is great diversity of movements, ranging between simple and vital breathing movements to minute and subtle movements of the face used to communicate emotions. Consequently, motor neurons, which are the only route of central nervous system output, are essential for all motor behaviors. To control the many motor behaviors expressed by an animal, motor neurons are exposed to a large number and variety of modulating synaptic inputs and have evolved into subtypes with specific functions. In this thesis, motor neuron subtypes and the synaptic input to motor neurons from Renshaw cells and Ia afferents have been studied. Novel molecular markers that identify subtypes of motor neurons are described. Three markers, Chodl, Calca and ERRβ, have been used to study the degeneration of subtypes of motor neurons in a mouse model of the neurodegenerative disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Another marker, 5-ht1d, has been used to record the electrophysiological character of gamma motor neurons. In mice that lack 5-ht1d, motor neurons develop with reduced proprioceptive input. Remarkably, these mice had fewer foot faults than control animals when challenged to cross a narrow beam suggesting that the amplitude of monosynaptic proprioceptive input to motor neurons is not essential for motor coordination. In a final set of experiments, genetic removal of vesicular transport of neurotransmitter from Renshaw cells suggest that Renshaw cells are not integral for motor circuit function or motor behaviors. However, they are involved in the development of motor circuits in the spinal cord. Together, this thesis provides novel molecular tools for studies of motor neuron subtypes and novel data regarding the development and function of spinal motor circuits.