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Interneuronal synapses formed by motor neurons appear to be glutamatergic

Zhang, Hongmeid; Wu, Chia-Yenb; Wang, Wenlanc; Harrington, Melissa A.a

doi: 10.1097/WNR.0b013e32834b6d5c

Acetylcholine release at motor neuron synapses has been long established; however, recent discoveries indicate that synaptic transmission by motor neurons is more complex than previously thought. Using whole-cell patch clamp, we show that spontaneous excitatory postsynaptic currents of rat motor neurons in primary ventral horn cultures are entirely glutamatergic, although the cells respond to exogenous acetylcholine. Motor neurons in cultures express the vesicular glutamate transporter VGlut2, and culturing motor neurons for weeks with glutamate receptors blocked upregulates glutamate signaling without increasing cholinergic signaling. In spinal cord slices, motor neurons showed no decrease in spontaneous excitatory synaptic potentials after blocking acetylcholine receptors. Our results suggest that motor neuron synapses formed on other neurons are largely glutamatergic in culture and the spinal cord.

aDepartment of Biological Sciences, Delaware State University, Dover

bDepartment of Biological Sciences, University of Delaware, Newark

cAlfred I. DuPont Hospital for Children, Wilmington, Delaware

dMD Anderson Texas Medical Center, Unit 0110, Houston, Texas, USA

Correspondence to Melissa A. Harrington, PhD, Department of Biological Sciences, Delaware State University, 1200 North Dupont Highway, Dover, DE 19901, USA Tel: +1 302 857 7117; fax: +1 302 857 6512; e-mail:

Received July 21, 2011

Accepted July 25, 2011

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.