Glutamatergic neurons of the gigantocellular reticular nucleus shape locomotor pattern and rhythm in the freely behaving mouse

by Maxime Lemieux, Frederic Bretzner

Because of their intermediate position between supraspinal locomotor centers and spinal circuits, gigantocellular reticular nucleus (GRN) neurons play a key role in motor command. However, the functional contribution of glutamatergic GRN neurons in initiating, maintaining, and stopping locomotion is still unclear. Combining electromyographic recordings with optogenetic manipulations in freely behaving mice, we investigate the functional contribution of glutamatergic brainstem neurons of the GRN to motor and locomotor activity. Short-pulse photostimulation of one side of the glutamatergic GRN did not elicit locomotion but evoked distinct motor responses in flexor and extensor muscles at rest and during locomotion. Glutamatergic GRN outputs to the spinal cord appear to be gated according to the spinal locomotor network state. Increasing the duration of photostimulation increased motor and postural tone at rest and reset locomotor rhythm during ongoing locomotion. In contrast, photoinhibition impaired locomotor pattern and rhythm. We conclude that unilateral activation of glutamatergic GRN neurons triggered motor activity and modified ongoing locomotor pattern and rhythm.

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