Mechanisms underlying the recruitment of inhibitory interneurons in fictive swimming in developing Xenopus laevis tadpoles

Andrea Ferrario, Valentina Saccomanno, Hong-Yan Zhang, Roman Borisyuk, Wen-Chang Li*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Downloads (Pure)


Developing spinal circuits generate patterned motor outputs while many neurons with high membrane resistances are still maturing. In the spinal cord of hatchling frog tadpoles of unknown sex, we found that the firing reliability in swimming of inhibitory interneurons with commissural and ipsilateral ascending axons was negatively correlated with their cellular membrane resistance. Further analyses showed that neurons with higher resistances had outward rectifying properties, low firing thresholds and little delay in firing evoked by current injections. Input synaptic currents these neurons received during swimming, either compoundˎ unitary current amplitudes or unitary synaptic current numbers, were scaled with their membrane resistances, but their own synaptic outputs were correlated with membrane resistances of their postsynaptic partners. Analyses of neuronal dendritic and axonal lengths and their activities in swimming and cellular input resistances did not reveal a clear correlation pattern. Incorporating these electrical and synaptic properties in a computer swimming model produced robust swimming rhythms whereas randomising input synaptic strengths led to the breakdown of swimming rhythms, coupled with less synchronised spiking in the inhibitory interneurons. We conclude that the recruitment of these developing interneurons in swimming can be predicted by cellular input resistances, but the order is opposite to the motor-strength based recruitment scheme depicted by Henneman’s size principle. This form of recruitment/integration order in development before the emergence of refined motor control is progressive potentially with neuronal acquisition of mature electrical and synaptic properties, among which the scaling of input synaptic strengths with cellular input resistance plays a critical role.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberJN-RM-0520-22
Pages (from-to)1387-1404
Number of pages18
JournalThe Journal of Neuroscience
Issue number8
Early online date24 Jan 2023
Publication statusPublished - 22 Feb 2023


  • Integration
  • Interneuron
  • Modeling
  • Recruitment
  • Spinal
  • Swimming


Dive into the research topics of 'Mechanisms underlying the recruitment of inhibitory interneurons in fictive swimming in developing Xenopus laevis tadpoles'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this