Functional organization of vestibulospinal inputs on thoracic motoneurons responsible for trunk postural control in Xenopus

Anne Olechowski‐Bessaguet, Raphaël Grandemange, Laura Cardoit, Elric Courty,François M. Lambert, Didier Le Ray
J Physiol.. 2020-02-03; 598(4): 817-838
DOI: 10.1113/JP278599

In vertebrates, trunk postural stabilization is known to rely mainly on direct vestibulospinal inputs on spinal axial motoneurons. However, a substantial role of central spinal commands ascending from lumbar segments is not excluded during active locomotion. In the adult Xenopus, a lumbar drive dramatically overwhelms the descending inputs onto thoracic postural motoneurons during swimming. Given that vestibulospinal fibres also project onto the lumbar segments that shelter the locomotor generators, we investigated whether such a lumbo‐thoracic pathway may relay vestibular information and consequently, also be involved in the control of posture at rest. We show that thoracic postural motoneurons exhibit particular dendritic spatial organization allowing them to gather information from both sides of the cord. In response to passive head motion, these motoneurons display both early and delayed discharges, with the latter occurring in phase with ipsilateral hindlimb extensor bursts. We demonstrate that both vestibulospinal and lumbar ascending fibres converge onto postural motoneurons, and that thoracic motoneurons monosynaptically respond to the electrical stimulation of either pathway. Finally, we show that vestibulospinal fibres project to and activate lumbar interneurons with thoracic projections. Taken together, our results complete the scheme of the vestibulospinal control of posture by illustrating the existence of a novel, indirect pathway, which implicates lumbar interneurons relaying vestibular inputs to thoracic motoneurons, and participating in global body postural stabilization in the absence of active locomotion.

Auteurs Bordeaux Neurocampus