The genetic dissection of spinal circuits is an essential new means for understanding the neural basis of mammalian behavior. Molecular targeting of specific neuronal populations, a key instrument in the genetic dissection of neuronal circuits in the mouse model, is a complex and time-demanding process. Here we present a circuit-deciphering 'tool box' for fast, reliable and cheap genetic targeting of neuronal circuits in the developing spinal cord of the chick. We demonstrate targeting of motoneurons and spinal interneurons, mapping of axonal trajectories and synaptic targeting in both single and populations of spinal interneurons, and viral vector-mediated labeling of pre-motoneurons. We also demonstrate fluorescent imaging of the activity pattern of defined spinal neurons during rhythmic motor behavior, and assess the role of channel rhodopsin-targeted population of interneurons in rhythmic behavior using specific photoactivation.
© The Author(s) 2014. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Nucleic Acids Research.