Anatomical Organization of the Spinal Paths to the Soleus and Gastrocnemius Muscles of the Rat Hind Limb

G. Tredici, C. Migliorini, I. Barajon, G. Cavaletti, R. Cece

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The anatomical organization of the motoneuronal columns of the soleus and lateral gastrocnemius muscle and of the related premotor interneurons was studied in rats, using the retrograde transneuronal transport of WGA-HRP. Motoneurons of the gastrocnemius muscle have a well-developed dendritic arborization which spreads into the transverse plane of the spinal cord extending to the intermediate region of the grey matter, while dendrites of the soleus muscle motoneurons spread mainly in the rosto-caudal plane, where they remain inside the border of the motoneuronal column and form small dendritic bundles, suggesting a coupling of neuronal activity as is to be expected in the motoneurons of a tonically active postural muscle such as the soleus. Gastrocnemial premotor interneurons are located close to the motoneuronal column, while the soleus premotor interneurons are scattered all over the ventral horn and intermediate grey. The number of labelled premotor interneurons is greater when the WGA-HRP is injected into the soleus muscle. In both cases, the premotor interneurons could be classified as four different types on the basis of the shape and size of the neuronal somata. The differences in the anatomical organization of the spinal paths to the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles reflect the different tasks performed by these two synergic muscles in normal motor behaviour: fast phasic activity by the gastrocnemius muscle, slow tonic anti-gravity activity by the soleus muscle.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-89
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Brain Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1996


  • Motoneurons
  • Premotor interneurons
  • Rat
  • WGA-HRP transneuronal transport

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology


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