Functional plasticity of glutamatergic neurons of medullary reticular nuclei after spinal cord injury in mice

Nat Commun. 2024 Feb 20;15(1):1542. doi: 10.1038/s41467-024-45300-4.


Spinal cord injury disrupts the descending command from the brain and causes a range of motor deficits. Here, we use optogenetic tools to investigate the functional plasticity of the glutamatergic reticulospinal drive of the medullary reticular formation after a lateral thoracic hemisection in female mice. Sites evoking stronger excitatory descending drive in intact conditions are the most impaired after injury, whereas those associated with a weaker drive are potentiated. After lesion, pro- and anti-locomotor activities (that is, initiation/acceleration versus stop/deceleration) are overall preserved. Activating the descending reticulospinal drive improves stepping ability on a flat surface of chronically impaired injured mice, and its priming enhances recovery of skilled locomotion on a horizontal ladder. This study highlights the resilience and capacity for reorganization of the glutamatergic reticulospinal command after injury, along with its suitability as a therapeutical target to promote functional recovery.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / pathology
  • Female
  • Locomotion / physiology
  • Medulla Oblongata
  • Mice
  • Neurons* / physiology
  • Reticular Formation
  • Spinal Cord / pathology
  • Spinal Cord Injuries*