Musculotopic organization of the motor neurons supplying forelimb and shoulder girdle muscles in the mouse

Brain Struct Funct. 2013 Jan;218(1):221-38. doi: 10.1007/s00429-012-0396-3. Epub 2012 Feb 24.


We identified the motor neurons (MNs) supplying the shoulder girdle and forelimb muscles in the C57BL/6J mouse spinal cord using Fluoro-Gold retrograde tracer injections. In spinal cord transverse sections from C2 to T2, we observed two MN columns (medial and lateral) both with ventral and dorsal subdivisions. The dorsolateral column consisted of the biceps brachii, forearm extensors, forearm flexors, and hand MNs, and the ventrolateral column consisted of the latissimus dorsi, trapezius, teres major, deltoid, and triceps MNs. The supraspinatus muscle MNs were located in the dorsomedial column, and pectoralis major and serratus anterior MNs were located in the ventromedial columns. MNs of the dorsolateral column innervated the biceps brachii in mid-C4 to mid-C7, forearm extensors in caudal C4 to mid-T1, forearm flexors in rostral C5 to mid-T1, and hand muscles in mid-C8 to mid-T2 segments. The MNs innervating the trapezius were located in mid-C2 to mid-C4, triceps brachii in mid-C6 to rostral T1, deltoid in rostral C4 to mid-C6, teres major in rostral C5 to mid-C8, and latissimus dorsi in mid-C5 to caudal C8. In addition, MNs innervating the supraspinatus were located from rostral C4 to caudal C8, pectoralis major in mid-C6 to mid-T2, and serratus anterior in rostral C5 to caudal C7/rostral C8 segments. While the musculotopic pattern of MN groups was very similar to that documented for other species, we found differences in the position and cranio-caudal extent of some MN pools compared with previous reports. The identification of mouse forelimb MNs can serve as an anatomical reference for studying degenerative MN diseases, spinal cord injury, and developmental gene expression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anterior Horn Cells / cytology
  • Choline O-Acetyltransferase / genetics
  • Choline O-Acetyltransferase / metabolism
  • Fluorescent Dyes / administration & dosage
  • Forelimb / innervation*
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / genetics
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Injections
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Motor Neurons / cytology*
  • Motor Neurons / metabolism
  • Muscle, Skeletal / innervation*
  • Neuroanatomical Tract-Tracing Techniques
  • Neuronal Tract-Tracers / administration & dosage
  • Shoulder / innervation*
  • Spinal Nerves / cytology*
  • Spinal Nerves / metabolism
  • Stilbamidines / administration & dosage


  • 2-hydroxy-4,4'-diamidinostilbene, methanesulfonate salt
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Neuronal Tract-Tracers
  • Stilbamidines
  • enhanced green fluorescent protein
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Choline O-Acetyltransferase