Deciphering the Locomotor Network The Role of Spinal Cord Interneurons
Sammanfattning: In the spinal cord, an intricate neural network generates and coordinates the patterning of limb movements during locomotion. This network, known as the locomotor central pattern generator (CPG), comprises of various cell populations that together orchestrate the output of motor neurons. Identification of CPG neurons through their specific gene expression is a valuable tool that can provide considerable insight to the character, intrinsic properties and role of a population, which represents a step toward understanding locomotor circuit function and correlating neural activity to behaviour. We selectively targeted two inhibitory CPG populations to investigate their molecular characteristics, circuitry and functional role; Renshaw cells (RCs) marked by their specific expression of the cholinergic nicotinic receptor α2 (Chrna2) and a subset of the dI6 population derived by their selective expression of the Doublesex and mab-3 related transcription factor 3 (Dmrt3).We found that RCs have hyperpolarisation-activated cation (Ih) and small calcium-activated potassium (ISK) modulatory currents that differentially regulate their excitation and firing properties, which influence the instantaneous feedback to motor neurons through the recurrent inhibition circuit. Due to previous difficulties isolating RCs from the surrounding locomotor circuits, their functional role remains poorly defined. For the first time, we selectively silenced RC inhibition and found that all aspects of motor behaviour, including coordination and gait were normal. The deletion of RC signalling instead altered the electrical and synaptic properties of the recurrent inhibitory circuit, suggesting that developmental plasticity compensates for the loss of RC inhibition.We reveal Dmrt3 neurons comprise a population of glycinergic inhibitory, spike-frequency adapting commissural interneurons active during locomotion. Conditional silencing of the Dmrt3 population resulted in considerable gait abnormalities in the neonatal and adult mouse. This manifested as an uncoordinated CPG output in vitro, impaired limb coordination in pups and increased fore- and hindlimb synchrony in adults that was exacerbated at faster locomotor speeds. Dmrt3 mediated inhibition subsequently impacts locomotion and suggests the Dmrt3 population contribute to coordinating speed dependent left-right limb alternation. This thesis provides cellular, circuit and behavioural insights into the Renshaw cell and Dmrt3 populations and enhances our knowledge regarding their probable function within the locomotor CPG.
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