Any comprehensive characterization
of CSMN function, we would argue, will need to account for this dependence. Most mammalian CSMN axons, and seemingly all of them in nonprimates, selleck compound synapse not onto motor neurons, but onto interneurons located in the intermediate and dorsal zones of the spinal cord (Kalaska, 2009). Thus, evolutionarily conserved polysynaptic corticospinal pathways, channeled through spinal interneurons, are likely of crucial relevance to the translation of cortical motor output. Because spinal interneurons are tasked with integrating CSMN input, along with information from sensory afferents and other descending pathways, the link between CSMN activity and motor behavior is likely to represent only one element of a larger logic of spinal motor circuitry. Here, we consider two potentially informative ways of probing the organization http://www.selleckchem.com/products/BKM-120.html of spinal interneuron classes and motor networks, with a view to clarifying the contribution of cortical commands (Figure 1). The first is the “degree of separation” factor: the question of how many synapses removed from direct contact with motor neurons are different spinal interneuron subtypes. The second is the issue
of how local interneurons assemble themselves with respect to their motor neuron targets: do some interneuron subtypes function as motor pool “specifists” and others as deliberate “generalists”? Resolving these two questions first demands an appreciation of just how many different interneuron subtypes exist. Thymidine kinase From developmental studies we know that spinal interneurons have a positional provenance, with four cardinal progenitor domains arranged along the dorsoventral axis of the ventral
cord giving rise to the V0, V1, V2, and V3 interneuron classes, each with its own distinctive molecular identities and axonal projection patterns (Grillner and Jessell, 2009). These cardinal subdivisions, while shown to be of relevance in constraining connectivity, appear only to scratch the surface of interneuron diversity. Molecularly, we already know of vanishingly small interneuron subsets that have measurable roles in motor control—the V0C and Hb9 interneuron subtypes, for example, represent only 2%–3% of their parental populations (Wilson et al., 2005 and Zagoraiou et al., 2009). By extrapolation, these and other studies indicate the existence of many dozens of molecularly, anatomically, and perhaps functionally different interneuron subtypes relevant to motor control. At the very least, the expression of defining molecular markers for many of these subtypes offers a way of examining their organization and function in a systematic and objective manner. In some instances it has been possible to fit defined interneuron subtype within the “degree of separation” framework.