Rhythmic Activity Patterns of Motoneurones and Interneurones in the Embryonic Chick Spinal Cord

  • M. O’Donovan
  • A. Ritter


We have studied the organization of patterned motor activity in the developing spinal cord of the chick embryo using optical and electrophysiological methods. Optical imaging of motoneurones filled with calcium dyes revealed the presence of fluorescence transients that were synchronized with the electrical activity recorded from hindlimb muscle nerves. Optical imaging was also used to demonstrate the rhythmic activity of a population of interneurones that is believed to provide some of the excitatory drive to motoneurones. Calcium transients were synchronized between motoneurones and these interneurones. Whole cell recordings from interneurones around the lateral motor column confirmed the optical findings and showed that many interneurones receive rhythmic synaptic drive in phase with that of motoneurones. Dye injections into individual interneurones failed to demonstrate the existence of widespread dye-coupling implying that synaptic mechanisms are responsible for the widespread synchrony in the activity of embryonic spinal neurones.


Rhythmic Activity Ventral Root Transverse Face Neuroscience Method Synaptic Drive 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Aghajanian, G.K. and Rasmussen, K. (1989) Intracellular studies in the facial nucleus illustrating a simple new method for obtaining viable motoneurones in adult rat brain slices. Synapse. 3: 331–338PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Agoston, D.V., Eiden, L.E. & Brenneman, D.E. (1991) Calcium-dependent regulation of the Enkephalin Phenotype by Neuroneal Activity during early ontogeny. Journal of Neuroscience Research. 28: 140–148.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Blanton, M. G., LoTurco, JJ. and Kriegstein, A.R. (1989) Whole cell recording from neurones in slices of reptilian and mammalian cerebral cortex. Journal of Neuroscience Methods. 30: 203–210.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Eiden, L.E., Siegel, R.E., Giraud, P. and Brenneman, D.E. (1988) Ontogeny of enkephalin-and VIP-containing neurones in dissociated cultures of embryonic mouse spinal cord and dorsal root ganglia. Developmental Brain Research. 44: 141–150PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Fields, R.D., Yu, C. and Nelson, P.G. (1991) Calcium, network activity and the role of NMDA channels in synaptic plasticity in vitro. Journal of Neuroscience. 11: 134–146.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Foster, G.A., Eiden, L.E., and Brenneman, D.E. (1989) Regulation of a discrete subpopulation of transmitteridentified neurones after inhibition of electrical activity in cultures of mouse spinal cord. Cell and Tissue Research. 256: 543–552PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Garner, L.K., Mendelson, B.M., Albers, K.M., Kindy, M. and B. M. Davis (1992) Effect of activity on Enkephalin and Substance P mRNA in the developing chick spinal cord. Society for Neuroscience Abstracts. 18: 420Google Scholar
  8. Grillner, S., and Matsushima T. (1991) The neural network underlying locomotion in lamprey-Synaptic and cellular mechanisms. Neurone. 7: 1–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Grynkiewicz, G., Poenie, M. and Tsien, R.. (1985) A new generation of Ca2+ indicators withgreatly improved fluorescence properties. Journal of Biological Chemistry. 260: 3440–3450PubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Ho, S. and O’Donovan, M. J. (1991) Properties of propriospinal neurones involved in the rhythmic excitation of motor pools in the isolated embryonic chick spinal cord. Society for Neuroscience Abstracts. 17: 120Google Scholar
  11. Ho, S., and O’Donovan, M.J. (1992) Optical and pharmacological studies of propriospinal neurones involved in rhythmic motor activity in the embryonic chick spinal cord. Society for Neuroscience Abtstracts. 18: 1057Google Scholar
  12. Ho, S. and O’Donovan MJ. (1993) Regionalization and inter-segmental coordination of rhythm generation networks in the spinal cord of the chick embryo. Journal of Neuroscience. 13: 1354–1371PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Horikawa, K. and Armstrong, W.E. (1988) A versatile means of intracellular labeling: injection of biocytin and its detection with avidin conjugates. Journal of Neuroscience Methods. 25: 1–11PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Kita, H. and Armstrong, W. (1991) A biotin-containing compound N-(2-aminoethyl) biotinamide for intracellular labeling and neuroneal tracing studiesxomparison with biocytin. Journal of Neuroscience Methods. 37: 141–150PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Landmesser, L.T. and O’Donovan MJ. (1984) Activation patterns of embryonic chick hind limb muscles recorded in ovo and in an isolated spinal cord preparation. Journal of Physiology. 347: 189–204.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Mendelson, B. (1992) Activity dependent alterations in substance P and CGRP immunoreactivity in neurones and fibers in the embryonic chick spinal cord. Society for Neuroscience Abstracts. 18: 420Google Scholar
  17. O’Donovan M.J. (1989) Motor activity in the isolated spinal cord of the chick embryo: Synaptic drive and firing pattern of single motoneurones. Journal of Neuroscience. 9: 943–958.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. O’Donovan, M.J. and Ho, S. (1992) The role of extracellular calcium and calcium channels in activity dependent intracellular calcium changes in embryonic chick motoneurones. Society for Neuroscience Abstracts. 18: 1303Google Scholar
  19. O’Donovan, M.J. and Landmesser L.T. (1987) The development of hindlimb motor activity studied in an isolated preparation of the chick spinal cord. Journal of Neuroscience. 7: 3256–3264.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. O’Donovan, M., Sernagor, E. Sholomenko, G., Ho S., Antal, M., and Yee, W. (1992) Development of spinal motor networks in the chick embryo. Journal of Experimental Zoology. 261: 261-273.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. O’Donovan, M.J., Ho, S., Sholomenko, G. and Yee, W. (1993) Real-time imaging of neurones retrogradely and anterogradely loaded with calcium sensitive dyes. Journal of Neuroscience Methods. 46: 91–106PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. O’Donovan, M.J., Ho., S and Yee, W. (1994) Calcium imaging of rhythmic network activity in the developing spinal cord of the chick embryo. In Press. J.NeuroscienceGoogle Scholar
  23. Ritter, A. and O’Donovan, M.J. (1993) Firing patterns and membrane properties of rhythmically active interneurones in the embryonic chick spinal cord. Society for Neuroscience Abstracts. 19: 557.Google Scholar
  24. Roberts, A., Soffe, S.R. and Dale, N. (1986) Spinal interneurones and swimming in frog embryos. In “Neurobiology of Vertebrate Locomotion” Ed. S. Grillner, P.S.G. Stein, D.G. Stuart, H. Forssberg and R.M. Herman pp. 279-306, Macmillan.Google Scholar
  25. Sernagor, E. and O’Donovan, M. J. (1991) Whole cell patch clamp of rhythmically active motoneurones in the isolated spinal cord of the chick embryo. Neuroscience Letters. 128: 211–216.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. O’Donovan
    • 1
  • A. Ritter
    • 1
  1. 1.Section on Developmental Neurobiology, Laboratory of Neural ControlNINDS, NIHBethesdaUSA

Personalised recommendations