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Paper Chase

Optogenetic-mediated increases in in vivo spontaneous activity disrupt pool-specific but not dorsal-ventral motoneuron pathfinding.

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A.. Oct 22, 2013;110(43):17528-33.
Kastanenka KV, Landmesser LT.

Department of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Charleston, MA 02129.


Rhythmic waves of spontaneous electrical activity are widespread in the developing nervous systems of birds and mammals, and although many aspects of neural development are activity-dependent, it has been unclear if rhythmic waves are required for in vivo motor circuit development, including the proper targeting of motoneurons to muscles. We show here that electroporated channelrhodopsin-2 can be activated in ovo with light flashes to drive waves at precise intervals of approximately twice the control frequency in intact chicken embryos. Optical monitoring of associated axial movements ensured that the altered frequency was maintained. In embryos thus stimulated, motor axons correctly executed the binary dorsal-ventral pathfinding decision but failed to make the subsequent pool-specific decision to target to appropriate muscles. This observation, together with the previous demonstration that slowing the frequency by half perturbed dorsal-ventral but not pool-specific pathfinding, shows that modest changes in frequency differentially disrupt these two major pathfinding decisions. Thus, many drugs known to alter early rhythmic activity have the potential to impair normal motor circuit development, and given the conservation between mouse and avian spinal cords, our observations are likely relevant to mammals, where such studies would be difficult to carry out.