Postnatal changes in motoneurone electrotonic coupling studied in the in vitro rat lumbar spinal cord

J Physiol. 1991 Feb;433:283-305. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.1991.sp018426.


1. Electrotonic coupling between motoneurones innervating ankle flexor and extensor muscles, as well as between unidentified lumbar motoneurones, was studied using intracellular recordings in an in vitro spinal cord-hindlimb preparation isolated from rats between birth (P0) and 13 days (P13). 2. Graded ventral root stimulation could elicit graded, short latency depolarizations (SLD) which preceded, coincided with, or followed the antidromic action potential. These SLDs were identified as electrotonic junctional potentials by their latency, relative insensitivity to changes in membrane potential and their resistance to one or more of the following: (1) high-frequency stimulation, (2) collision with a somatofugal action potential, (3) removal of Ca2+ from the bathing solution. 3. SLDs were studied in 162 neurones and were identified in 77.2% of the cells in preparations from P0 to P3 rats (n = 57), but only in 30.8% at P8 to P13 (n = 39). 4. SLDs were largest in the youngest animals (P0 to P3), decreasing from a mean of 1.31 mV (+/- 0.17, n = 34) to 0.56 mV (+/- 0.10, n = 7) at P8 to P13. The SLDs comprised two to eight (4.3 +/- 0.36) all-or-none components as determined from twenty collision experiments. 5. Electrotonic coupling between motoneurones was specific. SLDs could be elicited in given motoneurones by stimulation of their homonymous but never of their antagonistic muscle nerves. 6. These results indicate that electrotonic coupling between lumbar motoneurones in neonatal animals exhibits a high degree of specificity and that its significance, as judged by the amplitude and frequency of occurrence of SLDs, decreases postnatally at a rate that can be correlated with the functional maturity of the motoneurones and the muscular system.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Aging / physiology
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Electrophysiology
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Membrane Potentials
  • Motor Neurons / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Spinal Cord / growth & development
  • Spinal Cord / physiology*
  • Spinal Nerve Roots / physiology
  • Synapses / physiology
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology