Descending propriospinal axons in the hindlimb enlargement of the red-eared turtle: cells of origin and funicular courses

J Comp Neurol. 1994 Aug 15;346(3):321-36. doi: 10.1002/cne.903460302.


Spinal neurons with descending axons are important components of spinal sensorimotor networks. We used an anatomical tracing technique to study the distribution of descending propriospinal axons and cell bodies in red-eared turtles. We injected horseradish peroxidase into a portion of one funiculus in the middle of the hindlimb enlargement and examined six spinal segments rostral to the injection site (dorsal 3 through dorsal 8) for labeled neuronal cell bodies. Injections into each region of the white matter labeled substantial numbers of descending propriospinal neurons. Each injection labeled cell bodies over most of the six spinal segments examined. Each injection also labeled cell bodies in the ipsilateral dorsal horn, intermediate zone, and ventral horn as well as the contralateral intermediate zone and ventral horn. Injections into each of four regions of the white matter, the dorsal funiculus, the medial part of the lateral funiculus, the lateral part of the lateral funiculus, and the ventral funiculus reliably gave rise to a distinct distribution of labeled cell bodies. These experiments establish that descending propriospinal axons in red-eared turtles are found in all regions of the spinal white matter. This finding contrasts with a popular contemporary view of the organization of descending propriospinal axons in mammals. These experiments also demonstrate that neurons in each region of the gray matter give rise to a different distribution of descending, funicular axons, although these distributions are widely overlapping. Different funicular axon distributions could be associated with different sets of synaptic contacts with the white-matter dendrites of spinal neurons.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axonal Transport
  • Axons / physiology
  • Axons / ultrastructure*
  • Functional Laterality
  • Horseradish Peroxidase
  • Neurons / cytology*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Spinal Cord / cytology*
  • Spinal Cord / physiology
  • Turtles / anatomy & histology*


  • Horseradish Peroxidase