Partitioning of monosynaptic Ia excitatory post-synaptic potentials in the motor nucleus of the cat semimembranosus muscle

J Physiol. 1985 Dec;369:379-98. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.1985.sp015908.


In anaesthetized low-spinal cats, intracellular recordings were made of the Ia excitatory post-synaptic potential (e.p.s.p.) responses of semimembranosus motoneurones to electrical stimulation (Group I range) of nerve branches supplying the anterior and posterior heads of semimembranosus, the anterior and posterior parts of biceps femoris, and the distal part of semitendinosus. Recordings were also made during stimulation of nerves to the gracilis muscle and to the vasti muscle group. Stimulation of the semimembranosus-anterior nerve branch produced Ia e.p.s.p.s. of greater amplitude in semimembranosus-anterior motoneurones than in semimembranosus-posterior cells; likewise, stimulation of the semimembranosus-posterior nerve branch produced larger e.p.s.p.s. in cells which supplied the posterior head than in those which supplied the anterior head. Stimulation of the nerve branches to components of two 'flexor' muscles (Sherrington, 1910), biceps-posterior and semitendinosus-distal, produced larger e.p.s.p.s in semimembranosus-posterior cells than in the anterior motoneurones. A tendency was found for stimulation of the nerve to biceps femoris-anterior (an 'extensor') to produce larger e.p.s.p.s in semimembranosus-anterior than in-posterior motoneurones. However, this effect was of borderline (0.06 greater than P greater than 0.05) significance. The limited monosynaptic input produced by stimulation of the nerves to the gracilis and vasti muscles showed that their Ia axons do not distinguish between the two semimembranosus cell groups. A slight topographic organization of motoneurones within the semimembranosus motor nucleus was found, with anterior cells encountered, on average, at a more rostral level of the spinal cord than posterior cells. A similar topographic arrangement was observed in the rostrocaudal distribution of Group I afferent fibres in the dorsal roots and motor axons from the two sets of motoneurones in the ventral roots. These findings are consistent with 'location specificity' (Scott & Mendell, 1976) being a factor which contributes to the observed pattern of homonymous Ia connexions. A role for 'species specificity' (Scott & Mendell, 1976) in determining the observed pattern of homonymous Ia connexions was indicated by species-dependent differences in e.p.s.p. amplitude in pairs of semimembranosus-anterior and -posterior motoneurones at similar rostrocaudal locations in the spinal cord. The pattern of heteronymous connexions to the semimembranosus motor nucleus also showed evidence for species specificity. However, no clear topographic pattern was evident in these connexions.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Animals
  • Axons / physiology
  • Cats
  • Hindlimb
  • Motor Neurons / physiology*
  • Muscles / innervation*
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology
  • Neurons, Efferent / physiology
  • Species Specificity
  • Spinal Nerve Roots / physiology
  • Synapses / physiology*