Functional identification of interneurons responsible for left-right coordination of hindlimbs in mammals.
Butt SJB., Kiehn O.
Local neuronal networks that are responsible for walking are poorly characterized in mammals. Using an innovative approach to identify interneuron inputs onto motorneuron populations in a neonatal rodent spinal cord preparation, we have investigated the network responsible for left-right coordination of the hindlimbs. We demonstrate how commissural interneurons (CINs), whose axons traverse the midline to innervate contralateral neurons, are organized such that distinct flexor and extensor centers in the rostral lumbar spinal cord define activity in both flexor and extensor caudal motor pools. In addition, the nature of some connections are reconfigured on switching from rest to locomotion via a mechanism that might be associated with synaptic plasticity in the spinal cord. These results from identified pattern-generating interneurons demonstrate how interneuron populations create an effective network to underlie behavior in mammals.