Balanced cholinergic modulation of spinal locomotor circuits via M2 and M3 muscarinic receptors

Filipe Nascimento, Lennart R. B. Spindler, Gareth B. Miles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Neuromodulation ensures that neural circuits produce output that is flexible whilst remaining within an optimal operational range. The neuromodulator acetylcholine is released during locomotion to regulate spinal motor circuits. However, the range of receptors and downstream mechanisms by which acetylcholine acts have yet to be fully elucidated. We therefore investigated metabotropic acetylcholine receptor-mediated modulation by using isolated spinal cord preparations from neonatal mice in which locomotor-related output can be induced pharmacologically. We report that M2 receptor blockade decreases the frequency and amplitude of locomotor-related activity, whilst reducing its variability. In contrast, M3 receptor blockade destabilizes locomotor-related bursting. Motoneuron recordings from spinal cord slices revealed that activation of M2 receptors induces an outward current, decreases rheobase, reduces the medium afterhyperpolarization, shortens spike duration and decreases synaptic inputs. In contrast, M3 receptor activation elicits an inward current, increases rheobase, extends action potential duration and increases synaptic inputs. Analysis of miniature postsynaptic currents support that M2 and M3 receptors modulate synaptic transmission via different mechanisms. In summary, we demonstrate that M2 and M3 receptors have opposing modulatory actions on locomotor circuit output, likely reflecting contrasting cellular mechanisms of action. Thus, intraspinal cholinergic systems mediate balanced, multimodal control of spinal motor output.
Original languageEnglish
Article number14051
Number of pages16
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2019


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