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J Comp Neurol. 1997 Jun 16;382(4):469-79.

Development of phrenic motoneuron morphology in the fetal rat.

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1
Department of Physiology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada. dallan@physio.med.ualberta.ca

Abstract

This study examined the morphological changes that a homogeneous mammalian spinal motoneuron population undergoes during foetal development. Retrograde labelling of the phrenic nerve with the carbocyanine dye, DiI, was used to visualise developmental changes in phrenic motoneuron morphology within the cervical spinal cord of perinatal rats from embryonic day (E) 13.5 to birth (ca. E21). Groups of intimately associated phrenic somata had migrated into the ventromedial region of cervical segments C3-C6 by E14. This migration was followed by their progressive compaction into a tightly aligned column by E18. During this period, close contact was maintained between phrenic somata throughout the motor pool, suggestive of the presence of gap junctions. From E15 to E18, extensive dendritic arborisations fanned out dorsolaterally and ventromedially into the white matter and the floor plate. By E19, however, dendritic fasciculation and retraction and the extension of newly formed rostrocaudally projecting dendrites had resulted in the approximation of the dendritic morphology observed at birth. These data demonstrate that morphological maturation of phrenic motoneurons occurs subsequently to the onset of functional recruitment and the arrival of central processes of dorsal root ganglion neurons within the ventral horn (ca. E17). By birth, a number of immature features remain, including a larger proportion of neurites that project into the white matter and into the floor plate, the presence of growth cones on a number of dendrites, and close contact between populations of contralaterally derived dendrites.

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