The red nucleus and rubrospinal tract in the mouse
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We studied the organization and spinal projection of the mouse red nucleus with a range of techniques (Nissl stain, immunofluorescence, retrograde tracer injections into the spinal cord, anterograde tracer injections into the red nucleus, and in situ hybridization) and counted the number of neurons in the red nucleus (3,200.9 ± 230.8). We found that the rubrospinal neurons were mainly located in the parvicellular region of the red nucleus, more lateral in the rostral part and more medial in the caudal part. Labeled neurons were least common in the rostral and caudal most parts of the red nucleus. Neurons projecting to the cervical cord were predominantly dorsomedially placed and neurons projecting to the lumbar cord were predominantly ventrolaterally placed. Immunofluorescence staining with SMI-32 antibody showed that ~60% of SMI-32-positive neurons were cervical cord-projecting neurons and 24% were lumbar cord-projecting neurons. SMI-32-positive neurons were mainly located in the caudomedial part of the red nucleus. A study of vGluT2 expression showed that the number and location of glutamatergic neurons matched with those of the rubrospinal neurons. In the anterograde tracing experiments, rubrospinal fibers travelled in the dorsal portion of the lateral funiculus, between the lateral spinal nucleus and the calretinin-positive fibers of the lateral funiculus. Rubrospinal fibers terminated in contralateral laminae 5, 6, and the dorsal part of lamina 7 at all spinal cord levels. A few fibers could be seen next to the neurons in the dorsolateral part of lamina 9 at levels of C8–T1 (hand motor neurons) and L5–L6 (foot motor neurons), which is consistent with a view that rubrospinal fibers may play a role in distal limb movement in rodents.
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