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In the mouse spinal cord, V1 interneurons are a heterogeneous population of inhibitory spinal interneurons that have been implicated in regulating the frequency of the locomotor rhythm and in organizing flexor and extensor alternation. By introducing archaerhodopsin into engrailed-1-positive neurons, we demonstrate that the function of V1 neurons in locomotor-like activity is more complex than previously thought. In the whole cord, V1 hyperpolarization increased the rhythmic synaptic drive to flexor and extensor motoneurons, increased the spiking in each cycle, and slowed the locomotor-like rhythm. In the hemicord, V1 hyperpolarization accelerated the rhythm after an initial period of tonic activity, implying that a subset of V1 neurons are active in the hemicord, which was confirmed by calcium imaging. Hyperpolarizing V1 neurons resulted in an equalization of the duty cycle in flexor and extensors from an asymmetrical pattern in control recordings in which the extensor bursts were longer than the flexor bursts. Our results suggest that V1 interneurons are composed of several subsets with different functional roles. Furthermore, during V1 hyperpolarization, the default state of the locomotor central pattern generator (CPG) is symmetrical, with antagonist motoneurons each firing with an approximately 50% duty cycle. We hypothesize that one function of the V1 population is to set the burst durations of muscles to be appropriate to their biomechanical function and to adapt to the environmental demands, such as changes in locomotor speed.


Melanie Falgairolle, Michael J O'Donovan. V1 interneurons regulate the pattern and frequency of locomotor-like activity in the neonatal mouse spinal cord. PLoS biology. 2019 Sep;17(9):e3000447

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PMID: 31513565

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