The development of mammalian motor systems: the opossum Monodelphis domestica as a model

Brain Res Bull. 2000 Nov 15;53(5):615-26. doi: 10.1016/s0361-9230(00)00395-6.


The opossum Monodelphis domestica is a marsupial born considerably immature 14-15 days after conception. It is possible to study postnatally, in this species, almost the entire development of its motor behaviors as well as of the nerve centers involved in their control. The lumbosacral spinal cord of the newborn comprises a thick ventricular zone containing mitotic figures, an intermediate zone of small and undifferentiated cells, and a thin marginal zone. The hindlimbs are little more than embryonic buds. The presumptive bones consist of cartilageneous or mesenchymal condensations and the presumptive muscles of immature myofibers mixed and surrounded with mesenchyme. Cholinergic fibers from lumbosacral motoneurons are already seen among the myofibers, but most of hindlimb motor innervation develops postnatally. The long descending and ascending projection systems connecting the lumbosacral enlargement to the cervical cord and the encephalon also form largely postnatally, but lateral vestibular and medullary reticular axons are present in the lumbosacral cord at birth. Synaptogenesis in the lumbosacral enlargement occurs largely postnatally, according to a general outside-in gradient, and the earliest evidence for it is on lateral motoneurons. Myelinogenesis therein is even later. These observations on neural development are correlated with observations on the development of simple reflex behaviors and locomotion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Central Nervous System / cytology
  • Central Nervous System / growth & development*
  • Central Nervous System / metabolism
  • Hindlimb / growth & development
  • Hindlimb / innervation
  • Hindlimb / physiology
  • Locomotion / physiology*
  • Models, Animal
  • Neural Pathways / cytology
  • Neural Pathways / growth & development*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Opossums / anatomy & histology
  • Opossums / growth & development*
  • Opossums / physiology
  • Spinal Cord / cytology
  • Spinal Cord / growth & development
  • Spinal Cord / physiology