Descending systems direct development of key spinal motor circuits

Calvin C Smith, Julian Paton, Samit Chakrabarty, Ronaldo M Ichiyama

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)
337 Downloads (Pure)


The formation of mature spinal motor circuits is dependent on both activity-dependent and independent mechanisms during postnatal development. During this time, reorganisation and refinement of spinal sensorimotor circuits occurs as supraspinal projections are integrated. However, specific features of postnatal spinal circuit development remain poorly understood. This study provides the first detailed characterisation of rat spinal sensorimotor circuit development in the presence and absence of descending systems. We show that development of proprioceptive afferent (PA) input to motoneurones (MN) and Renshaw cells (RC) is disrupted by thoracic spinal cord transection (TX) at postnatal day 5 (PN5). PN5TX also lead to malformation of GABApre neuron axo-axonic contacts on Ia afferents and the recurrent inhibitory circuit between MN and RC. Using a novel in situ perfused preparation for studying motor control, we show that malformation of these spinal circuits leads to hyperexcitability of the monosynaptic reflex. Our results demonstrate that removing descending input severely disrupts development of spinal circuits and identifies key mechanisms contributing to motor dysfunction in conditions such as cerebral palsy and spinal cord injury.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6372-6387
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number26
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jun 2017

Bibliographical note



  • GABA pre neurons
  • Plasticity
  • Proprioceptive afferents
  • Renshaw cells
  • Sensorimotor
  • Spinal cord


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