Spinal V1 neurons inhibit motor targets locally and sensory targets distally

Curr Biol. 2021 Sep 13;31(17):3820-3833.e4. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2021.06.053. Epub 2021 Jul 21.


Rostro-caudal coordination of spinal motor output is essential for locomotion. Most spinal interneurons project axons longitudinally to govern locomotor output, yet their connectivity along this axis remains unclear. In this study, we use larval zebrafish to map synaptic outputs of a major inhibitory population, V1 (Eng1+) neurons, which are implicated in dual sensory and motor functions. We find that V1 neurons exhibit long axons extending rostrally and exclusively ipsilaterally for an average of 6 spinal segments; however, they do not connect uniformly with their post-synaptic targets along the entire length of their axon. Locally, V1 neurons inhibit motor neurons (both fast and slow) and other premotor targets, including V2a, V2b, and commissural premotor neurons. In contrast, V1 neurons make robust long-range inhibitory contacts onto a dorsal horn sensory population, the commissural primary ascending neurons (CoPAs). In a computational model of the ipsilateral spinal network, we show that this pattern of short-range V1 inhibition to motor and premotor neurons underlies burst termination, which is critical for coordinated rostro-caudal propagation of the locomotor wave. We conclude that spinal network architecture in the longitudinal axis can vary dramatically, with differentially targeted local and distal connections, yielding important consequences for function.

Keywords: differential connectivity; motor; rostro-caudal coordination; spinal cord; zebrafish.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Interneurons / physiology
  • Locomotion / physiology
  • Motor Neurons* / physiology
  • Spinal Cord / physiology
  • Zebrafish*