Comparison of the morphological and electrotonic properties of Renshaw cells, Ia inhibitory interneurons, and motoneurons in the cat

J Neurophysiol. 2003 Nov;90(5):2900-18. doi: 10.1152/jn.00533.2003. Epub 2003 Jul 23.


The morphological and electrotonic properties of 4 motoneurons, 8 Ia inhibitory interneurons, and 4 Renshaw cells were compared. The morphological analysis, based on 3-D reconstructions of the cells, revealed that dendrites of motoneurons are longer and more extensively branched. Renshaw cells have dendrites that are shorter and simpler in structure. Dendrites of Ia inhibitory interneurons could be as long as those of motoneurons but the branching structure resembled that of Renshaw cells. Compartmental models were used to determine the electrotonic properties of the paths from each dendritic terminal to the soma. The attenuations of steady-state voltage changes in motoneurons were 3 and 7 times larger than in Ia inhibitory interneurons and Renshaw cells, respectively. The same relative order was observed for current attenuation and electrotonic length. The dendritic input resistances in Renshaw cells were 2 and 4 times larger than in Ia inhibitory interneurons and motoneurons, respectively. The difference in these electrotonic properties increased during higher synaptic activity as modeled by a decrease of Rm. The peak amplitudes of voltage transients at sites of brief, synaptic-like changes in conductance were highly dependent on cell class and were largest in Renshaw cells and smallest in motoneurons. In combination with class-specific differences in the attenuation of transient voltage signals, this led to large differences in the peak amplitudes of somatic voltage transients. Differences in the rise times and half-widths of the voltage transients were observed as well. Thus, based on passive properties, each cell class has a unique set of input/output properties.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cats
  • Electric Conductivity*
  • Excitatory Postsynaptic Potentials / physiology
  • Interneurons / cytology*
  • Interneurons / physiology*
  • Motor Neurons / cytology*
  • Motor Neurons / physiology*
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology*