The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience

Functional subpopulations of V3 interneurons in the mature mouse spinal cord.

PMID 24259577


V3 interneurons (INs) are a major group of excitatory commissural interneurons in the spinal cord, and they are essential for producing a stable and robust locomotor rhythm. V3 INs are generated from the ventral-most progenitor domain, p3, but migrate dorsally and laterally during postmitotic development. At birth, they are located in distinctive clusters in the ventral horn and deep dorsal horn. To assess the heterogeneity of this genetically identified group of spinal INs, we combined patch-clamp recording and anatomical tracing with cluster analysis. We examined electrophysiological and morphological properties of mature V3 INs identified by their expression of tdTomato fluorescent proteins in Sim1(Cre/+); Rosa(floxstop26TdTom) mice. We identified two V3 subpopulations with distinct intrinsic properties and spatial distribution patterns. Ventral V3 INs, primarily located in lamina VIII, possess a few branching processes and were capable of generating rapid tonic firing spikes. By contrast, dorsal V3 INs exhibited a more complex morphology and relatively slow average spike frequency with strong adaptation, and they also displayed large sag voltages and post-inhibitory rebound potentials. Our data suggested that hyperpolarization-activated cation channel currents and T-type calcium channel currents may account for some of the membrane properties of V3 INs. Finally, we observed that ventral and dorsal V3 INs were active in different ways during running and swimming, indicating that ventral V3 INs may act as premotor neurons and dorsal V3 INs as relay neurons mediating sensory inputs. Together, we detected two physiologically and topographically distinct subgroups of V3 INs, each likely playing different roles in locomotor activities.