Motoneuron activity patterns related to the earliest behavior of the zebrafish embryo

Saint-Amant, L. and Drapeau, P.
The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience   20(11): 3964-3972 (Journal)
Registered Authors
Drapeau, Pierre, Saint-Amant, Louis
spinal cord; patch clamp; in vivo; rhythmic activity; synaptic transmission; locomotion
MeSH Terms
  • Aging/physiology
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal/physiology*
  • Electrophysiology
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian/physiology*
  • Embryonic and Fetal Development/physiology
  • GABA Antagonists/pharmacology
  • Membrane Potentials/drug effects
  • Membrane Potentials/physiology
  • Motor Activity/drug effects
  • Motor Activity/physiology
  • Motor Neurons/drug effects
  • Motor Neurons/physiology*
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Receptors, Glutamate/drug effects
  • Receptors, Glycine/antagonists & inhibitors
  • Spinal Cord/physiology
  • Synapses/drug effects
  • Synapses/physiology
  • Zebrafish
10818131 Full text @ J. Neurosci.
As a first step in the study of the developing motor circuitry of the embryonic zebrafish spinal cord, we obtained patch-clamp recordings in vivo from identified motoneurons in curarized embryos from the onset of the first motor behavior. At an early developmental stage in which embryos showed slow and repetitive spontaneous contractions of the trunk, motoneurons showed periodic depolarizations that triggered rhythmic bursts of action potentials with a frequency and duration that were consistent with those of the spontaneous contractions. The periodic depolarizations were blocked by tetrodotoxin or Cd(2+). Surprisingly, the contractions and periodic depolarizations were insensitive to general blockade of synaptic transmission (by elevated Mg(2+) and reduced Ca(2+), or by Co(2+)) and to selective blockade of the major neurotransmitter receptors of the mature spinal cord (acetylcholine, GABA(A), NMDA, AMPA/kainate, and glycine). The periodic depolarizations were suppressed by heptanol or by intracellular acidification, treatments that are known to uncouple gap junctions, indicating that electrotonic synapses could underlie the earliest motor behavior. A few hours later, most motoneurons already showed a new pattern of repetitive activity consisting of bursts of glycinergic synaptic events, but these were not necessary for the spontaneous contractions. Transecting the spinal cord at the hindbrain border did not affect the rhythmic activity patterns of the motoneurons. We suggest that spontaneous contractions of the zebrafish embryo are mediated by an early spinal circuit that is independent of the main neurotransmitter systems and descending hindbrain projections that are required for locomotion in the mature vertebrate spinal cord.
Genes / Markers
Mutations / Transgenics
Human Disease / Model
Sequence Targeting Reagents
Engineered Foreign Genes