The diversity of premotor interneurons in the mammalian spinal cord is generated from a few phylogenetically conserved embryonic classes of interneurons (V0, V1, V2, V3). Their mechanisms of diversification remain unresolved, although these are clearly important to understand motor circuit assembly in the spinal cord. Some Ia inhibitory interneurons (IaINs) and all Renshaw cells (RCs) derive from embryonic V1 interneurons; however, in adult they display distinct functional properties and synaptic inputs, for example proprioceptive inputs preferentially target IaINs, while motor axons target RCs. Previously, we found that both inputs converge on RCs in neonates, raising the possibility that proprioceptive (VGLUT1-positive) and motor axon synapses (VAChT-positive) initially target several different V1 interneurons populations and then become selected or deselected postnatally. Alternatively, specific inputs might precisely connect only with predefined groups of V1 interneurons. To test these hypotheses we analyzed synaptic development on V1-derived IaINs and compared them to RCs of the same age and spinal cord levels. V1-interneurons were labeled using genetically encoded lineage markers in mice. The results show that although neonatal V1-derived IaINs and RCs are competent to receive proprioceptive synapses, these synapses preferentially target the proximal somato-dendritic regions of IaINs and postnatally proliferate on IaINs, but not on RCs. In contrast, cholinergic synapses on RCs are specifically derived from motor axons, while on IaINs they originate from Pitx2 V0c interneurons. Thus, motor, proprioceptive, and even some interneuron inputs are biased toward specific subtypes of V1-interneurons. Postnatal strengthening of these inputs is later superimposed on this initial preferential targeting. J. Comp. Neurol. 518:4675–4701, 2010. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
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