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Discharge properties of medullary reticulospinal neurons during postural changes induced by intrapontine injections of carbachol, atropine and serotonin, and their functional linkages to hindlimb motoneurons in cats

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The present study was aimed at elucidating the pontomedullary and spinal cord mechanisms of postural atonia induced by microinjection of carbachol and restored by microinjections of serotonin or atropine sulfate into the nucleus reticularis pontis oralis (NRPo). Medullary reticulospinal neurons (n=132) antidromically activated by stimulating the L1 spinal cord segment were recorded extracellularly. Seventy-eight of them were orthodromically activated with mono- or disynaptic latencies by stimulating the NRPo area at the site where carbachol injections effectively induced postural atonia. Most of these reticulospinal neurons (71 of 78) were located in the nucleus reticularis gigantocellularis (NRGc). Following carbachol injection into the NRPo, discharge rates of the NRGc reticulospinal neurons (29 of 34) increased, while the activity of soleus muscles decreased bilaterally. Serotonin or atropine injections into the same NRPo area resulted in a decrease in the discharge rates of the reticulospinal neurons with a concomitant increase in the levels of hindlimb muscle tone. Membrane potentials of hindlimb extensor and flexor alpha motoneurons (MNs) were hyperpolarized and depolarized by carbachol and serotonin or atropine injections, respectively. In all pairs of reticulospinal neurons and MNs (n=11), there was a high correlation between the increase in the discharge rates and the degree of membrane hyperpolarization of the MNs. Spike-triggered averaging during carbachol-induced atonia revealed that inhibitory postsynaptic potentials (IPSPs) were evoked in 15 MNs by the discharges of nine reticulospinal neurons. Four of them evoked IPSPs in more than one MN. The mean segmental delay and the mean time to the peak of IPSPs were 1.6 ms and 2.0 ms, respectively. Axonal trajectories of reticulospinal neurons (n=6), which evoked IPSPs in MNs, were investigated in the lumbosacral segments (L1-S1) by antidromic threshold mapping. The stem axons descended through the ventral (n=2) and ventrolateral (n=4) funiculi in the lumbar segments. All axons projected their collaterals to the intermediate region (laminae V, VI) and ventromedial part (laminae VII, VIII) of the gray matter. All these results suggest that the reticulospinal pathway originating from the NRGc is involved in postural atonia induced by pontine microinjection of carbachol, and that the pathway is inactivated during the postural restoration induced by subsequent injections of serotonin or atropine. It is further suggested that the pontine inhibitory effect is mediated via segmental inhibitory interneurons projecting to MNs.

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Takakusaki, K., Shimoda, N., Matsuyama, K. et al. Discharge properties of medullary reticulospinal neurons during postural changes induced by intrapontine injections of carbachol, atropine and serotonin, and their functional linkages to hindlimb motoneurons in cats. Exp Brain Res 99, 361–374 (1994). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00228973

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Key words

  • Carbachol
  • Serotonin
  • Pontine reticular formation
  • Medullary reticulospinal neuron
  • Postural atonia
  • Cat