Functional characterization of dI6 interneurons in the neonatal mouse spinal cord

J Neurophysiol. 2012 Jun;107(12):3256-66. doi: 10.1152/jn.01132.2011. Epub 2012 Mar 21.


Our understanding of the neural control of locomotion has been greatly enhanced by the ability to identify and manipulate genetically defined populations of interneurons that comprise the locomotor central pattern generator (CPG). To date, the dI6 interneurons are one of the few populations that settle in the ventral region of the postnatal spinal cord that have not been investigated. In the present study, we utilized a novel transgenic mouse line to electrophysiologically characterize dI6 interneurons located close to the central canal and study their function during fictive locomotion. The majority of dI6 cells investigated were found to be rhythmically active during fictive locomotion and could be divided into two electrophysiologically distinct populations of interneurons. The first population fired rhythmic trains of action potentials that were loosely coupled to ventral root output and contained several intrinsic membrane properties of rhythm-generating neurons, raising the possibility that these cells may be involved in the generation of rhythmic activity in the locomotor CPG. The second population fired rhythmic trains of action potentials that were tightly coupled to ventral root output and lacked intrinsic oscillatory mechanisms, indicating that these neurons may be driven by a rhythm-generating network. Together these results indicate that dI6 neurons comprise an important component of the locomotor CPG that participate in multiple facets of motor behavior.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Female
  • Homeodomain Proteins / genetics
  • Interneurons / physiology*
  • Locomotion / physiology
  • Male
  • Membrane Potentials / physiology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques / methods
  • Periodicity
  • Proteins / genetics
  • RNA, Untranslated
  • Spinal Cord / cytology
  • Spinal Cord / physiology*
  • Spinal Nerve Roots / physiology


  • Dbx1 protein, mouse
  • Gt(ROSA)26Sor non-coding RNA, mouse
  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • Proteins
  • RNA, Untranslated