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ISSN : 1226-7155(Print)
ISSN : 2287-6618(Online)
International Journal of Oral Biology Vol.31 No.4 pp.113-118

Impulse Trafficking in Neurons of the Mesencephalic Trigeminal Nucleus

Young-Nam Kang, Saito, Mitsuru
Department of Neuroscience and Oral Physiology, Osaka University Graduate School of Dentistry


In the primary sensory neuron of the mesencephalic trigeminal nucleus (MTN), the peripheral axon supplies a large number of annulospiral endings surrounding intrafusal fibers encapsulated in single muscle spindles while the central axon sends only a few number of synapses onto single α-motoneuron₃.(α-MN₃)Therefore, the α-y linkage is thought to be very crucial in the jaw-closing movement. Spike activity in a y-motoneuron (y-MN) would induce a large number of impulses in single peripheral axons by activating many intrafusal fibers simultaneously, subsequently causing an activation of α-MN₃ in spite of the small number of synapses. Thus, the activity of y-MN₃ may be vital for modulation of jaw-closing movements. Independently of such a spindle activity modulated by y-MN₃, somatic depolarization in MTN neurons is known to trigger the oscillatory spike activity. Nevertheless, the trafficking of these spikes arising from the two distinct sources of MTN neurons is not well understood. In this short review, switching among multiple functional modes of MTN neurons is discussed. Subsequently, it will be discussed which mode can support the α-y linkage. In our most recent study, simultaneous patch-clamp recordings from the soma and axon hillock revealed a spike-back-propagation from the spike-initiation site in the stem axon to the soma in response to a somatic current pulse. The persistent Nα+ current was found to be responsible for the spike-initiation in the stem axon, the activation threshold of which was lower than those of soma spikes. Somatic inputs or impulses arising from the sensory ending, whichever trigger spikes in the stem axon first, would be forwarded through the central axon to the target synapse. We also demonstrated that at hyperpolarized membrane potentials, 4-AP-sensitive K+ current (IK₄_AP) exerts two opposing effects on spikes depending on their origins; the suppression of spike initiation by increasing the apparent electrotonic distance between the soma and the spike-initiation site, and the facilitation of axonal spike invasion at higher frequencies by decreasing the spike duration and the refractory period. Through this mechanism, the spindle activity caused by y-MN₃would be safely forwarded to α-MN. Thus, soma spikes shaped differentially by this IK₄_AP depending on their origins would reflect which one of the two inputs was forwarded to the target synapses.