Conditional rhythmicity of ventral spinal interneurons defined by expression of the Hb9 homeodomain protein.
The properties of mammalian spinal interneurons that underlie rhythmic locomotor networks remain poorly described. Using postnatal transgenic mice in which expression of green fluorescent protein is driven by the promoter for the homeodomain transcription factor Hb9, as well as Hb9-lacZ knock-in mice, we describe a novel population of glutamatergic interneurons located adjacent to the ventral commissure from cervical to midlumbar spinal cord levels. Hb9+ interneurons exhibit strong postinhibitory rebound and demonstrate pronounced membrane potential oscillations in response to chemical stimuli that induce locomotor activity. These data provide a molecular and physiological delineation of a small population of ventral spinal interneurons that exhibit homogeneous electrophysiological features, the properties of which suggest that they are candidate locomotor rhythm-generating interneurons.
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