Cholinergic-mediated coordination of rhythmic sympathetic and motor activities in the newborn rat spinal cord

by Mélissa Sourioux, Sandrine S. Bertrand, Jean-René Cazalets

Here, we investigated intrinsic spinal cord mechanisms underlying the physiological requirement for autonomic and somatic motor system coupling. Using an in vitro spinal cord preparation from newborn rat, we demonstrate that the specific activation of muscarinic cholinergic receptors (mAchRs) (with oxotremorine) triggers a slow burst rhythm in thoracic spinal segments, thereby revealing a rhythmogenic capability in this cord region. Whereas axial motoneurons (MNs) were rhythmically activated during both locomotor activity and oxotremorine-induced bursting, intermediolateral sympathetic preganglionic neurons (IML SPNs) exhibited rhythmicity solely in the presence of oxotremorine. This somato-sympathetic synaptic drive shared by MNs and IML SPNs could both merge with and modulate the locomotor synaptic drive produced by the lumbar motor networks. This study thus sheds new light on the coupling between somatic and sympathetic systems and suggests that an intraspinal network that may be conditionally activated under propriospinal cholinergic control constitutes at least part of the synchronizing mechanism.

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