Electrophysiological characterization of V2a interneurons and their locomotor-related activity in the neonatal mouse spinal cord

J Neurosci. 2010 Jan 6;30(1):170-82. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4849-09.2010.


The V2a class of Chx10-expressing interneurons has been implicated in frequency-dependent control of left-right phase during locomotion in the mouse. We have used the Chx10::CFP mouse line to further investigate the properties and locomotion-related activity of V2a interneurons in the isolated neonatal spinal cord. V2a interneurons can be divided into three classes, based on their tonic, phasic, or delayed-onset responses to step depolarization. Electrical coupling is found only between neurons of same class and helps to synchronize neuronal activity within the class. Serotonin (5-HT) excites isolated tonic V2a interneurons by depolarizing the neurons and increasing their membrane input resistance, with no significant effects on action potential properties, a mechanism distinct from 5-HT excitation of commissural interneurons. During NMDA-/5-HT-induced locomotor-like activity, patch-clamp recordings and two-photon calcium imaging experiments show that approximately half of V2a interneurons fire rhythmically with ventral root-recorded motor activity; the rhythmic V2a interneurons fired during one half of the cycle, in phase with either the ipsilateral or the contralateral L2 ventral root bursts. The percentage of rhythmically firing V2a interneurons increases during higher-frequency fictive locomotion, and they become significantly more rhythmic in their firing during the locomotor cycle; this may help to explain the frequency-dependent shift in left-right coupling in Chx10::DTA mice, which lack these neurons. Our results together with data from the accompanying paper (Dougherty and Kiehn, 2009) reinforce earlier proposals that the V2a interneurons are components of the hindlimb central pattern generator, helping to organize left-right locomotor coordination in the neonatal mouse spinal cord.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Anterior Horn Cells / physiology
  • Electrophysiological Phenomena / physiology
  • Homeodomain Proteins / physiology
  • Interneurons / classification*
  • Interneurons / physiology*
  • Membrane Potentials / physiology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred ICR
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Spinal Cord / physiology*
  • Transcription Factors / physiology


  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • Vsx2 protein, mouse