Journal of Neurophysiology

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Glial-derived adenosine modulates spinal motor networks in mice

Emily C. Witts, Kara M. Panetta, Gareth B. Miles


The activation of purinergic receptors modulates central pattern generators controlling rhythmic motor behaviors, including respiration in rodents and swimming in frog tadpoles. The present study aimed to determine whether purinergic signaling also modulates the mammalian locomotor central pattern generator. This was investigated by using isolated spinal cord preparations obtained from neonatal mice in which locomotor-related activity can be induced pharmacologically. The application of either ATP or adenosine led to a reduction in the frequency of locomotor activity recorded from ventral roots. ATP had no effect when applied in the presence of both the adenosine receptor antagonist theophylline and the ectonucleotidase inhibitor ARL67156, demonstrating that the effects of ATP application result from the breakdown of ATP to adenosine and subsequent activation of adenosine receptors. The application of theophylline or the A1-specific antagonist cyclopentyl dipropylxanthine, but not the A2A-receptor antagonist SCH58261, caused an increase in locomotor burst frequency, demonstrating that endogenously derived adenosine activates A1 receptors during locomotor network activity. Furthermore, theophylline had no effect in the presence of the ectonucleotidase inhibitor ARL67156 or the glial toxins methionine sulfoximine or ethyl fluoracetate, suggesting that endogenous adenosine is derived from ATP, which is released from glia. Finally, adenosine had no effect on slow rhythmic activity recorded upon blockade of all inhibitory transmission, suggesting that adenosine may act via the modulation of inhibitory transmission. Together, these data highlight endogenous purinergic gliotransmission, involving activation of A1 receptors, as an important intrinsic modulatory system controlling the frequency of activity generated by spinal locomotor circuitry in mammals.

  • spinal cord
  • motor control
  • neuromodulation
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