Motor antagonism exposed by spatial segregation and timing of neurogenesis

Tripodi, Marco; Stepien, Anna E.; Arber, Silvia
November 2011
Nature;11/3/2011, Vol. 479 Issue 7371, p61
Academic Journal
Walking is a key motor behaviour of limbed animals, executed by contraction of functionally antagonistic muscle groups during swing and stance phases. Nevertheless, neuronal circuits regulating the activation of antagonistic extensor-flexor muscles remain poorly understood. Here we use monosynaptically restricted trans-synaptic viruses to elucidate premotor anatomical substrates for extensor-flexor control in mice. We observe a medio-lateral spatial segregation between extensor and flexor premotor interneurons in the dorsal spinal cord. These premotor interneuron populations are derived from common progenitor domains, but segregate by timing of neurogenesis. We find that proprioceptive sensory feedback from the periphery is targeted to medial extensor premotor populations and is required for extensor-specific connectivity profiles during development. Our findings provide evidence for a discriminating anatomical basis of antagonistic circuits at the level of premotor interneurons, and point to synaptic input and developmental ontogeny as key factors in the establishment of circuits regulating motor behavioural dichotomy.


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