In vitro models of spinal motor circuit's development in mammals: achievements and challenges

Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2021 Feb;66:240-249. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2020.12.002. Epub 2021 Mar 5.


The connectivity patterns of neurons sustaining the functionality of spinal locomotor circuits rely on the specification of hundreds of motor neuron and interneuron subtypes precisely arrayed within the embryonic spinal cord. Knowledge acquired by developmental biologists on the molecular mechanisms underpinning this process in vivo has supported the development of 2D and 3D differentiation strategies to generate spinal neuronal diversity from mouse and human pluripotent stem cells (PSCs). Here, we review recent breakthroughs in this field and the perspectives opened up by models of in vitro embryogenesis to approach the mechanisms underlying neuronal diversification and the formation of functional mouse and human locomotor circuits. Beyond serving fundamental investigations, these new approaches should help engineering neuronal circuits differentially impacted in neuromuscular disorders, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or spinal muscular atrophies, and thus open new avenues for disease modeling and drug screenings.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis*
  • Animals
  • Interneurons
  • Mammals
  • Mice
  • Motor Neurons
  • Spinal Cord*