Sensory Neurons Contacting the Cerebrospinal Fluid Require the Reissner Fiber to Detect Spinal Curvature In Vivo

Curr Biol. 2020 Mar 9;30(5):827-839.e4. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2019.12.071. Epub 2020 Feb 20.


Recent evidence indicates active roles for the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) on body axis development and morphogenesis of the spine, implying CSF-contacting neurons (CSF-cNs) in the spinal cord. CSF-cNs project a ciliated apical extension into the central canal that is enriched in the channel PKD2L1 and enables the detection of spinal curvature in a directional manner. Dorsolateral CSF-cNs ipsilaterally respond to lateral bending although ventral CSF-cNs respond to longitudinal bending. Historically, the implication of the Reissner fiber (RF), a long extracellular thread in the CSF, to CSF-cN sensory functions has remained a subject of debate. Here, we reveal, using electron microscopy in zebrafish larvae, that the RF is in close vicinity with cilia and microvilli of ventral and dorsolateral CSF-cNs. We investigate in vivo the role of cilia and the RF in the mechanosensory functions of CSF-cNs by combining calcium imaging with patch-clamp recordings. We show that disruption of cilia motility affects CSF-cN sensory responses to passive and active curvature of the spinal cord without affecting the Pkd2l1 channel activity. Because ciliary defects alter the formation of the RF, we investigated whether the RF contributes to CSF-cN mechanosensitivity in vivo. Using a hypomorphic mutation in the scospondin gene that forbids the aggregation of SCO-spondin into a fiber, we demonstrate in vivo that the RF per se is critical for CSF-cN mechanosensory function. Our study uncovers that neurons contacting the cerebrospinal fluid functionally interact with the RF to detect spinal curvature in the vertebrate spinal cord.

Keywords: CSF; CSF-cNs; CSF-contacting neurons; KAs; Kolmer-Agduhr cells; PKD2L1; RF; SCO-spondin; central canal; cerebrospinal fluid; mechanoreception; motile cilia; polycystin kidney disease 2 like 1; spinal cord; the Reissner fiber.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cerebrospinal Fluid / physiology*
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission
  • Morphogenesis*
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / physiology*
  • Spinal Cord / growth & development*
  • Spinal Cord / ultrastructure
  • Zebrafish / growth & development*