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Wnt7A identifies embryonic γ-motor neurons and reveals early postnatal dependence of γ-motor neurons on a muscle spindle-derived signal.

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Publication date 2012
Author Ashrafi Soha, Lalancette-Hébert Melanie, Friese Andreas, Sigrist Markus, Arber Silvia, Shneider Neil A, Kaltschmidt Julia A,
Project Entwicklung und Funktion von motorischen Netzwerken
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience
Volume (Issue) 32(25)
Page(s) 8725 - 8731
Title of proceedings The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience
DOI 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1160-12.2012


Motor pools comprise a heterogeneous population of motor neurons that innervate distinct intramuscular targets. While the organization of motor neurons into motor pools has been well described, the time course and mechanism of motor pool diversification into functionally distinct classes remains unclear. γ-Motor neurons (γ-MNs) and α-motor neurons (α-MNs) differ in size, molecular identity, synaptic input and peripheral target. While α-MNs innervate extrafusal skeletal muscle fibers to mediate muscle contraction, γ-MNs innervate intrafusal fibers of the muscle spindle, and regulate sensitivity of the muscle spindle in response to stretch. In this study, we find that the secreted signaling molecule Wnt7a is selectively expressed in γ-MNs in the mouse spinal cord by embryonic day 17.5 and continues to molecularly distinguish γ-from α-MNs into the third postnatal week. Our data demonstrate that Wnt7a is the earliest known γ-MN marker, supporting a model of developmental divergence between α- and γ-MNs at embryonic stages. Furthermore, using Wnt7a expression as an early marker of γ-MN identity, we demonstrate a previously unknown dependence of γ-MNs on a muscle spindle-derived, GDNF-independent signal during the first postnatal week.