Development of interneurons with ipsilateral projections in embryonic rat spinal cord

J Comp Neurol. 1994 Apr 8;342(2):221-31. doi: 10.1002/cne.903420206.


Considerable progress has been made in recent years in identifying molecules with restricted expression in mammalian spinal cord at early developmental stages. However, the significance of the different expression patterns for most of these molecules is unclear because so little is known about the development of various classes of spinal interneurons. Recently, we have characterized the development of rat spinal cord interneurons with an axon that crosses in the ventral commissure (Silos-Santiago and Snider, J. Comp. Neurol., 325:514, 1992). In the current study, we describe the morphological development of ipsilaterally projecting spinal interneurons in laminae V-VIII of the thoracic spinal cord. These neurons were labelled by retrograde lateral diffusion of DiI after crystals were placed in various locations in the embryonic thoracic cord. By E14, approximately 48 hours after the first interneurons are generated, eight different groups of ipsilateral interneurons are present in the spinal cord. By E15, these groups of ipsilateral interneurons have reached distinct locations within the gray matter. Even at this early stage, different groups of cells have elaborated characteristic dendritic arborizations. By E19, at least 17 different types of ipsilateral interneurons can be identified on the basis of location and dendritic morphology. In general, ipsilateral interneurons are located more dorsally and laterally than commissural interneurons at all stages of embryonic development. Furthermore, in comparison with commissural neurons, fewer ipsilateral interneurons have dendritic arbors with a mediolateral orientation in the transverse plane. This work demonstrates that rat embryonic spinal cord contains a large number of morphologically distinct classes of interneurons that extend axons into the ipsilateral lateral funiculus. These neurons can be distinguished from commissural neurons on the basis of location and morphology. These results, taken together with those from our previous study, provide a framework for the localization of gene expression to different classes of spinal interneurons at early developmental stages.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carbocyanines
  • Dendrites / ultrastructure
  • Female
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Histocytochemistry
  • Interneurons / physiology*
  • Neural Pathways / cytology
  • Neural Pathways / embryology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pyramidal Cells / ultrastructure
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Spinal Cord / cytology
  • Spinal Cord / embryology*


  • Carbocyanines
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • 3,3'-dioctadecylindocarbocyanine