Projection patterns of lamina VIII commissural neurons in the lumbar spinal cord of the adult cat: an anterograde neural tracing study

Neuroscience. 2006 Jun 19;140(1):203-18. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2006.02.005. Epub 2006 Mar 13.


This study was designed to characterize the morphology of commissural axons, with the goal of revealing some of the organizing principles of their projections in the lumbosacral cord. Axons were labeled anterogradely with biotinylated-dextran amine which was injected in the left lamina VIII and the adjoining parts of lamina VII in the lumbar segments L5-L6 in seven cats. After 3-4 weeks, commissural axons were well labeled throughout lumbosacral segments L1-S2. After crossing the midline at the injection level, labeled axons traveled rostrally and/or caudally in the contralateral ventral and lateral funiculi giving off multiple axon collaterals. The trajectories of 34 single axons were traced in their entirety from their points of origin to their distal ends. Most of these axons were thin (proximal diameter <3.5 microm) and short (<30 mm), and gave off 6 to 32 axon collaterals at short intercollateral distances (mean <2 mm) in the lumbosacral enlargement. Some thicker axons (diameter >3.5 microm) ascended as far as the thoracic level; these supplied only four to six collaterals at long intercollateral intervals ( approximately 6.5 mm). All of the axons except one projected unilaterally. The axons as a whole terminated throughout the contralateral ventral horn. However, axons that traveled in different parts of the white matter had different characteristic terminal arborizations. The collaterals of axons that traveled in the ventral funiculus terminated preferentially in laminae VII-VIII, while those in the lateral funiculus terminated in lamina IX. Although the collateral branching patterns differed from one axon to another, collaterals arising from a particular axon usually exhibited similar patterns at different rostrocaudal levels. These uniform collateral termination patterns indicate that the morphology of each neuron might be specifically related to its function. This may allow future studies to identify different functional types of commissural neurons on the basis of much less extensive reconstructions.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / metabolism
  • Biotin / analogs & derivatives
  • Biotin / metabolism
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cats
  • Dextrans / metabolism
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality
  • Lumbosacral Region
  • Male
  • Neural Pathways / anatomy & histology*
  • Neural Pathways / metabolism
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Spinal Cord / cytology*
  • Spinal Cord / metabolism


  • Dextrans
  • biotinylated dextran amine
  • Biotin