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Basal ganglia–spinal cord pathway that commands locomotor gait asymmetries in mice

Nature neuro

Authors: Jared M. Cregg, Simrandeep K. Sidhu, Roberto Leiras, Ole Kiehn
Publication: Nature Neuroscience
Date: February 12, 2024
Link to article: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41593-024-01569-8


The basal ganglia are essential for executing motor actions. How the basal ganglia engage spinal motor networks has remained elusive. Medullary Chx10 gigantocellular (Gi) neurons are required for turning gait programs, suggesting that turning gaits organized by the basal ganglia are executed via this descending pathway. Performing deep brainstem recordings of Chx10 Gi Ca2+ activity in adult mice, we show that striatal projection neurons initiate turning gaits via a dominant crossed pathway to Chx10 Gi neurons on the contralateral side. Using intersectional viral tracing and cell-type-specific modulation, we uncover the principal basal ganglia–spinal cord pathway for locomotor asymmetries in mice: basal ganglia → pontine reticular nucleus, oral part (PnO) → Chx10 Gi → spinal cord. Modulating the restricted PnO → Chx10 Gi pathway restores turning competence upon striatal damage, suggesting that dysfunction of this pathway may contribute to debilitating turning deficits observed in Parkinson’s disease. Our results reveal the stratified circuit architecture underlying a critical motor program.

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